March 29, 2010 (Washington, DC) – One month after Oregon’s legislature voted by landslide margins to end the state’s 87-year-old ban on religious dress for public school teachers, The Sikh Coalition has learned that Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski will sign this historic legislation into law. For the first time in American history, observant Sikhs, Jews, and Muslims won’t have to sacrifice their articles of faith in order to work as teachers in the public schools of Oregon. This victory would not have been possible without your support. Sikh Coalition supporters sent almost 10,000 messages to Oregon legislators, urging them to end the state’s discriminatory ban on Sikh teachers.
Important Next Steps
Before the new law goes into effect in July 2011, Oregon’s administrative agencies will spend the next year developing guidelines that spell out the new rights and responsibilities of public school teachers in Oregon. The Sikh Coalition will monitor this process to ensure that the new guidelines protect the civil rights of teachers. In the meantime, we strongly encourage Oregon Sikhs to pursue teaching careers with pride.
The Cost of Change
Getting to this point took many strategic steps: January 6, 2010 – The Sikh Coalition partners with SALDEF and UNITED SIKHS on a joint action alert, calling for an end to discrimination against Sikhs in Oregon. January 12, 2010 – The Sikh Coalition publishes an essay about the Oregon issue on the website of the American Constitution Society, a prominent national policy organization. February 5, 2010 – The Sikh Coalition rallies seventeen (17) state and national organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League and Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, in support of ending Oregon’s discrimination against religious teachers. February 15, 2010 – The Sikh Coalition prepares written testimony and educational material for the Oregon legislature. March 8, 2010 – The Sikh Coalition sends a letter to Oregon’s Governor urging him to end Oregon’s discriminatory ban on Sikh teachers. The Sikh Coalition is thankful to Oregon House Speaker Dave Hunt and his staff for taking up this cause; to Portland attorney and activist Saba Ahmed for her extraordinary leadership; and for the support of countless partner organizations and community members in Oregon and throughout the United States. As always, The Sikh Coalition urges all Sikhs to stand up for their rights and fearlessly maintain their articles of faith.