Representative Sal Esquivel (R-Medford) introduced HB 3014, which would have required Oregon public schools, including public charter schools, to hang a U.S. flag in every classroom and to provide a daily opportunity for a student or teacher to lead the students in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. Under current law, schools are required to provide this opportunity once weekly.
The ACLU of Oregon has had long standing concerns about this statute, primarily because we believe it is vulnerable to a challenge under the Oregon constitution’s religious freedom provision, Article I, section 5. The Pledge of Allegiance includes “One Nation under God” and yet our constitution states in part: “No money shall be drawn from the Treasury for the benefit of any religious (sic), or theological institution…”
Currently, school districts are required to provide their students with the opportunity to recite the Pledge of Allegiance once a week. HB 3604 was introduced to expand the current requirement by allowing for daily recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance.
Introduced near the end of session, HB 3609, sponsored by Rep. Shawn Lindsay (R-Hillsboro) would have put a person’s free exercise of religion above any neutral state or local laws, including civil rights laws, if the person asserted that the law infringed on his or her religious beliefs.
In the February 2010 supplemental session, the Oregon Legislature repealed ORS 342.650, which prohibited public school teachers from wearing religious dress in the classroom.
The ACLU of Oregon urged the Legislature to postpone consideration of repeal until 2011. Repealing this law will likely affect the religious neutrality of our public schools and we believe it is essential to fully understand the legal ramifications before taking action.