Schools Bans Religious Clothing

A new law has been passed in Oregon- the Oregon Workplace Religious Freedom Act- that says: “No teacher in any public school shall wear any religious dress while engaged in the performance of duties as a teacher. A school district, education service district or public charter school does not commit an unlawful employment practice under ORS chapter 659A by reason of prohibiting a teacher from wearing religious dress while engaged in the performance of duties as a teacher.


Oregon teachers are not allowed to wear religious clothing in classrooms- what do you think of this? It’s one of only two states that has this law. I’m trying to figure out how I feel about this. Just because I don’t believe in or practice the same religion as some, is it fair that we prohibit them to practice what they believe? Is this not a free country?
I’m trying to picture this as if I had children in the public schools with their teacher wearing a turban or other piece of clothing that represents their religion. I want my children to know the different kinds of people in the world. I imagine this would bring up questions and I’d be happy to explain the different types of religions to my children. I feel like in order to bring up well rounded individuals in this society, its essential to allow children to see, hear, feel,learn, and be exposed to all sorts of people,experiences, things, and even religious clothing. Then, I feel, it’s our job as parents to show them and teach them the right way.
If the teacher is not teaching their religion, then what’s the problem?
Then again, would a child look up to their teacher out of respect and think that their religion is right because they are a teacher?
So, then, are we allowed to wear shirts with the words JESUS on them? Or a necklace with a cross on it? Where do we draw the line? What’s the difference between a teacher wearing a headscarf and a teacher wearing a cross necklace? Are both not articles or accessories of clothing that show ones belief?
I can go both ways on this and honestly, I’m not concrete in how I feel about it. This topic can probably become quite controversial, which is fine, but I would love to hear your thoughts on this.
What do you think?

Published by Samantha Mellen

Certified personal trainer & health coach helping women transform their lives through fitness, abundant mindset coaching and internal peace. Mom of two boys, living life in Alaska.

18 thoughts on “Schools Bans Religious Clothing

  1. As an atheist I think this is a horrible idea. That's right. I think it's not good. Some religions are required to wear certain clothes as part of their religious practice. And as far as I'm concerned this law infringes on their rights to practice their religion. I feel it's unconstitutional. Nor can it be applied equally. Mormons will still be able to wear their religious clothing because it's worn under their other clothes and no-one's going to be checking their underwear. But Muslim women won't be able to wear theirs because it's worn on their head.

    I may not be religious. In fact I'm pretty anti-religious. But I will stand for others' right to practice religion {provided it does no harm} as vehemently as I stand for my right not to.

  2. I can kind of see where they're coming from, but I still don't think it's right. We have freedom of religion in our country, and that's one of the things that makes our country great. We should have the freedom to practice that religion to the fullest. My religion has effected my dress in that I only wear things that I believe the Bible and God Himself would deem “modest.” I would be offended if someone told me that I wasn't allowed to wear what I believe is right anymore.

  3. I agree with you, I think this is a free country and its our job as mothers to teach our children what we want them to believe. What a crazy law.

  4. II agree with the above comment from annoymous. I believe this is a free country and it is our job as parents to teach our children the beliefs we think they should have. I think its a violation of rights to take someones religion away from them by saying they cannot wear religious clothing. They are not teaching the children religion, but meerly holding their own views close to them. It would be different if they were speaking out about their own religion or about other religions and why they chose the path they chose. There should never be a law against wearing a cross necklace or anything of the sort. I think that if we keep giving the states and goverment power, we will likely not be able to attend the religious service of our choice or pray outloud at certian times of the day… It could get that bad and I am teriffied of what might happen to our freedom.

  5. I think that it is freedom of speech issue … if the teacher is forcing their views on students, that is a problem. But prohibiting simply wearing a T-shirt? I think that's a violation of their personal freedom.

    My husband is a high school teacher and a Christian. He does not wear religious T-shirts to school, but he does have religious posters in the classroom and leads a Fellowship of Christian Athletes group at his school. He never forces his views on students, but they respect the way he lives his life and often ask him about his faith. I think that's a very healthy thing for kids.

    I agree with you, Samantha, that regardless of the religion, interacting with those of other faiths is a good thing. It stimulates good conversations and then, of course, the parent is responsible for teaching them about their faith/beliefs. Being exposed to different faiths helps them understand the differences and why they and their families choose their particular beliefs.

    My 2 cents.

  6. Hmm, I might have to do a post on this on my own blog b/c I think my opinions won't fit into a comment box.

    I do not think teachers should be allowed to express their personal beliefs to their students, regardless of whether the topic is religion, politics, school lunch, or etc. UNLESS it is directly related to the content they are paid to teach.

  7. I would be interested in seeing how the State handles the Constitutional challenge to this, given it goes farther than a dress code and get into limiting the ability of a person's free exercise. The law does not appear within the scope of religious freedom as the 1st Amendment has been applied in previous law but it appears to be prohibiting religious exercise to a great extent (religious dress is required by some religions)& I cannot see how they'd be able to have the law upheld. For example, would an Orthodox Jew be able to teach in the school district or a if a Catholic who is invested in a scapular be unable to teach because he/she would be wearing the scapular (even if not always visible)?

  8. I support freedom of religion- not freedom from religion. People should be able to practice their religious beliefs as long as they are not harmful to others. I don't want someone telling my kids that they can't pray over their lunch so why would I support someone else not being able to practice their own beliefs, even if they aren't the same as my own?

  9. I'm with confused homemaker on this one… I don't know how the state can pass a law that violates the First Amendment. This will be interesting to watch.

  10. Wow! this is something… and scary… I think is limiting their right to express their religion. If they are NOT teaching religion I don't see how this can be a menace. Now they are making it ILLEGAL and as far as I know, we are the land of the free where we can express our religion in any way we want. Wasn't it why the first pilgrims came here in the first place?

  11. I think that it's a terrible idea. I think our children should see different religions and learn to accept EVERYONE. They don't need to see everyone looking the same. They need to learn that there are all kinds of people in this world and what better place to see that than in school? As long as the teachers arent pushing religion on their students I think it should be ok. I mean they teach evolution to all children in school and some childrens religions don't belive in evolution. Isn't that kind of telling children what to belive?

  12. great thoughts! I agree with most of you, like I said in my post, I think children should be exposed to everything and learn from everyone/everything. As long as the teachers aren't teaching the kids what they believe then I don't see any problem with it.

    Obviously the fact that only TWO states have this law says something..

  13. I do not like this at all. What about nuns & priest in Catholic schools? This really does strike me as a free speech issue. It honestly makes me very sad.

  14. (@Nessa – The law applies to public schools only.)

    Hmmm… I think there's a distinction to be made between clothing/etc that's required by one's religion (head scarf, yarmulke, etc) and religious symbol jewelry (cross, star of David) and, say, a tshirt that is intended to more overtly express a religious message, or even to prostelitize.

    As an agnostic/probably-atheist, I think I would be okay with the first two, but the third would bother me.

    Overtly Christian posters in my child's classroom would definitely bother me.

    Just as I suspect that many Christians would be bothered by Muslim posters.

    The thing is, if it's the teacher – a person in a position of authority in the school – expressing the religious view (or the classroom itself “expressing” the view – as with posters on the wall) then it certainly gives the impression (especially to young students) that the school itself (an agent of the state) is expressing that view, or favoring a given religion, or – Constitutionality alert – “establishing a religion.”

    It's a sticky wicket, indeed.

  15. It's going to be interesting to see how they define this one and where do they draw the line. Jewelry for example, do you balk at a teacher who wears a gold chain with a cross or a Star of David on it? What about a Sikh teacher who wears a turban? There is a difference between wearing something that is part of your faith and wearing clothing where the purpose is proselytizing.

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