PENNSYLVANIA — Teachers in Pennsylvania could soon be allowed to wear religious clothing and symbols after the Senate approved a measure this week. The bill, which now goes to the House for consideration, would eliminate a section from the state’s Education Code that prohibits a teacher from wearing any dress, mark, emblem, or insignia indicative of his or her faith or denomination.
Pennsylvania legislators are pushing for this overdue legislation with the support of a diverse coalition, aiming to make their state the 50th in America without an antiquated law that goes against William Penn’s founding ideals, remarked state Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York). The bill is widely backed by lawmakers from both sides of the aisle and seeks to uphold Pennsylvania as a champion of religious freedom and tolerance.
Senate Bill 84 would align Pennsylvania with every other state in the nation in preserving and protecting First Amendment rights for educators.
“It’s a First Amendment right to express your religious beliefs. Everyone, and most certainly our educators, should be free to exercise that right in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This is not an endorsement of any one religion; it allows people of all faiths to express themselves,” said state Senator Judy Schwank (D-Berks).
Throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Ku Klux Klan supported similar laws across the nation due to anti-Catholic sentiment at the time. Pennsylvania’s original 1895 law served as the model for three dozen states that pursued similar anti-First Amendment laws. Today, Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation with this law in place. Nebraska was the most recent state to repeal its law in 2017.
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