Independence Law Center applauds vote on Senate Bill 247 to Stop Religious Discrimination against Educators

by | Mar 25, 2021 | Religious Freedom | 1 comment

Pennsylvania’s Senate Education Committee unanimously voted its approval of Senate Bill 247, a bill that would end Pennsylvania’s religious discrimination against teachers and other educators for the wearing of religious garb.  Led by Senators Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) and Judy Schwank (D-Berks), the proposed legislation would eliminate Section 1112 of the state’s Education Code, which prohibits teachers from wearing any dress, mark, emblem or insignia indicating his or her faith or denomination.  

“I applaud this legislative effort to repeal this unconstitutional law that singles out religious teachers for discriminatory treatment,” says Jeremy Samek, senior counsel at the Independence Law Center.  “Pennsylvania’s founder, William Penn, was once put in jail over failing to remove a hat for religious reasons, so protecting teachers’ rights to wear religious garb in the state he founded is fitting.” 

The Committee voted to advance the bill for a vote by the full Senate.  The elimination of Section 1112 would make Pennsylvania the last state in the country to remove laws like this, which punish teachers for exercising their First Amendment rights.  Nebraska was the last state to abolish a similar law in 2017 – making Pennsylvania the only state remaining with such a law.

“We are thankful for the leadership of Senators Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) and Judy Schwank (D-Berks) in sponsoring this long overdue fix to our School Code.  And we thank Committee Chair Senator Scott Martin (R-Lancaster), and the Senators who voted to protect the religious liberty of Pennsylvania educators,” added Janice Martino-Gottshall, an attorney with the Independence Law Center.

Senate Bill 247 advances to the full Senate for its consideration, where we hope for swift passage and its prompt consideration by the State House. 

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Independence Law Center is a non-profit legal organization and civil rights law firm specializing in First Amendment issues.