Protection for Religious Clothing in Public Schools?

A_Modern_Village_School-_Education_in_Cambridgeshire,_England,_UK,_1944_D23624Pennsylvania lawmakers have proposed a “Student Religious Liberties Act,” which, among other things, purports to protect the right of public school students to wear “clothing, accessories, and jewelry that display a religious message or symbol in the same manner and to the same extent that a student may wear clothing, accessories and jewelry that display a secular message or symbol.” The bill would require all public schools to implement its policies by January 1, 2014.

As reported, State Rep. Rob Kauffman (R-Franklin), citing his concern that “religious expression is being abridged” in the United States, says, “It is unfortunate that we can’t always depend on the judiciary to properly interpret the Constitution and protect the rights of our citizens.”

First Amendment doctrine would seemingly already protect student religious expression in clothing.  However, the bill may be viewed as part of a larger trend of attempts to “protect” religious expression, including in arguments against same sex marriage and insurance coverage for abortion. The Republican-majority Pennsylvania Assembly has passed a number of bills, including an ACLU-opposed resolution recognizing “National Fast Day” and a ban on abortion coverage in state health insurance exchanges.

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