ACLU, KKK and the culture of fear

In the next few weeks, the Oregon legislature will be voting on whether to repeal a 1923 law that makes it illegal for anyone wearing distinctively religious clothing to serve as a public school teacher.

You wouldn’t think the ACLU would defend a law created by the KKK. But you would be wrong, at least in Oregon.

In the next few weeks, the Oregon legislature will be voting on whether to repeal a 1923 law that makes it illegal for anyone wearing distinctively religious clothing to serve as a public school teacher. The law, ORS § 342.650, was enacted by Ku Klux Klan (KKK) sympathizers as one of several laws aimed at suppressing Catholics and other ethnic and religious minorities. Although other laws enacted during this time period have long since been repealed, ORS § 342.650 has yet to face the same fate and is one of the last KKK-inspired laws to remain on the books in the United States.

In Oregon’s diverse modern landscape, ORS § 342.650 keeps not only Catholic priests and nuns from serving as public school teachers, but also observant Muslims, Sikhs, and Orthodox Jews. Many Oregonians are understandably shocked that this law is still on the books. Like forced sterilization and laws that kept Japanese immigrants from owning property, ORS § 342.650 was passed in a culture of fear and is rightly rejected today.

Later this month, the Oregon legislature will consider a bill spearheaded by House Speaker David Hunt to repeal this noxious law. The legislature will take into account testimony delivered recently by various government officials, lawyers, professors, and civil rights organizations, including among others the Oregon ACLU. The ACLU, which prides itself on protecting the little guy, is today using KKK-esque tactics to defeat the repeal of a law promoted by the KKK in 1923.

Instead of using reason, the ACLU is using fear. In the early 1920s, the KKK pushed its agenda by scaring people with threats of cultural “pollution” by Japanese and Catholics. The ACLU today is following a similar path; apparently, Sikhs and Muslims are not scary enough, as the ACLU has resorted to scaring people with Wiccans, Rajneeshees, Scientologists, and members of the Church of Body Modification.

Charles Hinkle, former president of ACLU Oregon and an ACLU cooperating attorney for over 38 years, testified against the repeal by appealing to the legislature’s fears of witches and teachers with facial jewelry. He warned of the mass departure of Christian students should the legislature allow Wiccans in “witch clothes” to teach in Oregon’s public schools. Never mind that such religious garb statutes don’t exist in 47 states and yet the witches have not taken over our public schools. Use of such extreme examples denotes persuasion through fear rather than reasoned argument.

The ACLU should be embarrassed. Its manipulation of fear hearkens back to a time when minorities were considered a threat. Today, it is laws like ORS § 342.650 that are foreign and threatening to our values. Oregonians, proud of their state’s progressive reputation, should write and call their representatives to ensure that the last vestiges of KKK influence–and the broader culture of fear that it represents–are wiped away for good.

Asma Uddin
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  • fenwayfem

    Salaamu aleikum, Asma, and thank you for sharing this information. There is a concerted effort by the “Liberal” elite wage-earners in this nation to circumvent the messiness of Democracy and take over the nation’s political machinery to promote a sort of sectarian plutocracy that is responsive to their needs and that of their comfortably ensconced children. Among their efforts to derail our Bill of Rights and Constitutional protections to practice religion, are (1)the promotion of “laicity” as if secular barbarisms are prefereable to religious excesses…and indeed the folks who are spearheading this effort, the demonization and marginalization of President Obama to prevent him from leading the nation into an ACTUAL exploration of Sharing resources for the common good…(3)the attempt to divorce freedom of religion and religious protections of any sort from the public arena…and this is before these folks, many of them claiming to be civil and human rights advocates, also do their level best to (4)destroy the second amendment rights to self protection in the name of phony studies in the main carried out and publicized by the Brady “bunch” who really want us all to believe that violence comes from the tools chosen to express it, not from the nutjobs we are creating societally at an alarming rate; nor from failed “feminist” attempts to end domestic and family violence which exclude compulsively violent men from help and treatment; which excuse women who are emotionally abusive from taking responsibility for their actions as well as becoming accountable for their reactions to an abusive domestic partner; nor from the associated problems of black market crime with which our economically struggling, jobless communities are increasingly infected.if we do not honestly strive to uphold and respect the precious documents of our declaration of Independence, our bill of rrights and the US Constitution, as they stand, which protect every citizen’s rights, duties, freedoms and security with their brilliant composition of government and individual rights and responsibilities, then we are loking at a world of hurt down the road. We are looking at a USA in which only the rich have rights and privileges, and injustices like that which you describe triumph over the rule of law; the evolution of human and civil rights come not from the historically sound base of our founding principles, but from laicitistic European mores; and the abuse of power by the double income college cheating their way through but still get the plummy jobs vile pretend to care and unwilling to share filthy rich self congratulatory plutocrats.

  • dcesque

    Thank you for posting this article. As a Sikh who was born, raised, educated, and licensed to practice law in the United States, it was a rude shock for me to discover that I am forbidden from working as a public school teacher in Oregon on account of my turban, which I wear in accordance with my religious heritage.One wonders if Oregon will ever change. In a landmark 1923 Supreme Court case titled United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind, an Oregonian Sikh was denied the right to become a naturalized citizen of the United States because he was deemed not to be a “white person” within the meaning of the law. Not surprisingly, around the same time, sympathizers of the Ku Klux Klan in the Oregon legislature enacted the law that would ultimately become ORS 342.650. In the post-9/11 environment, Sikhs have paid a heavy price for maintaining their identity. Our friends and brothers are often subjected to hate crimes, workplace discrimination, and school bullying by bigots who mistakenly associate beards and turbans with Islam and whose hatred for Muslims is compounded by sheer ignorance and stupidity. Sikhs have been persecuted throughout history for wearing their turbans. Like many Sikhs, I wear a turban to remind myself of my heritage and feel naked and incomplete without it. When I wear a turban, I feel as though I am standing on the shoulders of my father, and his father, and on and on down the generations. Does the Oregon ACLU really think that people like me will drop dead and allow the Ku Klux Klan to dictate my civil rights in 2010?Exposing children to the realities of religious and cultural pluralism in the United States are the best ways to combat bias and discrimination in our society. There are adequate safeguards under the Establishment Clause to prevent teachers from preaching to their students; the act of wearing religious dress (out of modesty or self-respect) simply does not rise to the level of preaching. It would be an immoral and unconstitutional shame if Oregon failed to conform itself to one of the highest ideals of our nation — that all Americans be given a fair opportunity to achieve their personal and professional dreams, regardless of their religion.

  • GregR1

    Agreed with Asma. As an Evangelical, I gotta say here – the rights of one are the rights of all. The ACLU is trying to get all religious expression out of the public square with this one. I’m ashamed by the anti-Catholic nativism that originated this bill, and the anti-Anybody With A Divergent Religious Look that maintains it. This bill needs to go – now.

  • narinderjolly

    It is disappointing to learn that ACLU instead of supporting the ideals of “Liberty and justice for all” is engaged in fear-mongering. If India’s Prime Minister Mr. Manmohan Singh wanted to teach school children in the State of Oregon, ACLU would oppose it because the Prime Minister happens to be a “Sikh” and wears a turban; and thus deprive the Oregonian children of an opportunity to learn from one of today’s most qualified, learned and respected personality. The Prime Minister is warmly received by the U.S. Presidemt(s) in the White House and his views are sought by the members of the U.S. Congress but ACLU would oppose him teaching Oregonian children. ACLU needs to revisit its backward thinking. To compete and thrive in today’s globalized environment, American children and youth need to be informed and educated about diverse cultures, religions and world issues.Kudos to Asma Uddin for her progressive thoughts.

  • TejwantSMalik

    First of all, I want to thank Asma for this brilliant eyeopening piece. If I am not mistaken, ACLU means- American CIVIL LIBERTIES Union. It seems with this kind action of theirs they have forgotten the two most important letters in their own acronym. What a shame and a shacklefull thing for them to do in the name of the Civil Liberties. Hey, ACLU, take off the blinders of yesteryears if you claim to fight for freedom and liberty for ALL Americans.

  • APaganplace

    (continued) The reason our Sikh community had such trouble after 9/11 has much to do with nobody knowing what a turban or, to you guys, a particular symbolic dagger, *is,* …Then reapplying that funhouse image to Muslims. When I was little, Sikh dudes (Don’t really hear too much from Sikh women) were ‘Guys in scary hats with weapons,’ to me, it’s true. Mother knows what you think of *me,* but these days, but all the hysteria, a certain reputation for believing in honor and some of what those objects symbolize precedes you. Don’t know if it’s a sentiment that’s reciprocated, honestly, but if you get a little smile and nod from someone else dressed a little bit funny, it could be an American Pagan saying, “Damn glad to have you around, gentlemen.” Cause there are *some* people who will use caricatures of the lot of us, use fear, use ignorance, use an idea of ‘competing divine commands,’ to undermine the *pluralistic and legally-wrought guarantees of Liberty* of the nation we share. Don’t make a romantic fool of me. ;) Or some kind of ‘monster’ of the ACLU. They aren’t always even *right,* but nor do they claim to be. Someone else wants us to think in those terms. Honesty first. The law as originally-drafted may have been from a bigoted idea that nuns would ‘Vaticanize’ our schools, …but actually, that idea’s not bigotry, anymore. *Now* the Vatican is trying to actually use religion to coerce our lawmakers to enforce Vatican will on the public. ‘Freedom’ is not their intention, any more than it is the intention of Jerry Falwell’s crew. Even if the Orwellianly-named but overtly-xenophobic ‘Liberty University’ passing out ‘education degrees’ and claiming to be “oppressed” if they can’t use all our kids for a captive audience and call it ‘government’… says it is. Demonizing the ACLU won’t help. They aren’t prophets. They’re *lawyers.* They’re allowed to be *wrong.* In fact, in America, exactly half of all lawyers are supposed to walk into court *being* wrong. As lawfully as they can. That’s what a court of law is *for.* Whatever the case under dispute is, or the hidden precedents it might set, slagging on the ACLU may not help. What *will* help is certainly important, and now that our attention is here, ….how can I help. Oregon is a place I’d like to live, too.

  • APaganplace

    “”It is disappointing to learn that ACLU instead of supporting the ideals of “Liberty and justice for all” is engaged in fear-mongering. “”Well, I doubt the ACLU’s objective is *fear-mongering,* here: rather to try and keep schools free and religiously-neutral. I don’t agree with the position, myself, especially considering there’s always an undertone of “What if a Wiccan wore something that says she’s not a monotheist! Ridiculous! Scary!”But the reality is that one of the biggest problems in our education system is actually people using it as a ‘captive audience’ to push their forms of their religions.It’s not *directed* at Muslims or Sikhs or the average person who happens to be Catholic, or even, I think, me, …but rather it’s about trying to preserve neutral ground. I think it’s an ill-advised way to try going *about* it, assuredly, being among the ‘unintended consequences,’ here, but I see some merit in trying to keep our schools as safe and neutral and non-ideological ground as possible. When I was a kid, I sure didn’t benefit of Christianist type teachers trying to enforce/reinforce ignorance and prejudice from the churches, even as they claimed to represent the *government.*For America, I think we should draw the line somewhere a little more in tune with ‘free expression.’ My faith really doesn’t have any *commands* that I must dress a certain way, but it’s certainly unfair to have a little cross allowed and be told ‘What if you dress ‘Wiccan?’ (Gods know what they imagine, there: many like a touch of anachronism in clothing, we don’t walk around in ritual robes (or wear a lot of robes to rituals, for that matter) …thus must be subject to legal sanction if a little pentacle becomes visible. The problem here is that if we don’t have strict ‘neutrality,’ then it’s not the minority faiths and cultures who will abuse it. I say, ‘free expression.’ But keep religious indoctrination *out* of the curriculum. Keep it clear that the teacher’s person is *not* the government.Heck, people should wear as many religious articles as they *like.* Truth in advertising. Kids are smarter than most people like to think.

  • ender2

    “I mean, look at Yeal and Mastermind, here. They probably don’t have any ‘distinctive religious garb’ :)”Ok. Point taken.”Wizards” was just to add an catch all for any overt display of religious affiliation. And, to your point we have no way of identifying evangelical Xtian Fundies so I understand the discriminatory nature of this law. However, most school systems prohibit students from extreme dress because educators say it can disrupt classroom behavior. ‘Normality’ is already a part of is taught in schools. I’m not saying it’s right, just that it is long standing tradition in American(and probably the rest of the world) to fit students into a mold. I guess I could support your position if it was in every teachers contract that proselytizing or teaching a religious vs. textbook position resulted in immediate termination.But, I’m pretty sure that either of my children(my self for sure) would have pushed the envelope and probably jumped out of the envelope of acceptable behavior in harassing a teacher wearing a burka or a habit. I still say some expression is too extreme for a secular school system.

  • abhab1

    Asma preaches:Minorities do not pose a threat except for the adherents of Islam. Theirs is a supremacist ideology bent on conquering the world in the name of Allah and His prophet (meaning Mohammad). Muslims are not even shy of expressing their agenda. You only have to read the charters of the many Islamic organizations that had recently proliferated in this country. Here is one by the founder of CAIR.

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    Just to clarify–The 1986 Appeal (Cooper v. Eugene School District) upheld the lower court ruling.

  • APaganplace

    I thought that maybe I should point out that I was in significant part educated by nuns and other Catholic clergy in various forms of habit… Do I sound as though I look like a nun? Or a Christian, for that matter? :) My Gods, if a whole school of em can’t make me a celibate pretending to be heterosexual about my not-ever-having sex… Maybe it ain’t about clothes. I dunno… :)

  • APaganplace

    Personally, I think we mostly ought to draw the line about …Well, show your face to your students. If we can’t see your face, you may as well just phone it in or record it.

  • APaganplace

    …I mean, for most students in schools, it’s a pretty valuable piece of information to know when ‘teach’ is literally having a ‘bad hair day,’ but that’s dealable. :)

  • YEAL9

    The only solution to the Muslim community’s identity/garb woes is to delete all the offensive passages in the Koran i.e. those passages that call for world and female domination by Muslim males.

  • Alex511

    fr the article:>…The ACLU should be embarrassed. Its manipulation of fear hearkens back to a time when minorities were considered a threat….Actually, it’s the stupid kkk, or aryan “brotherhood” or whatever “name” they pull out of the white sheet hat that they stole from momma’s linen cupboard, who deserves to be embarrassed. It’s THEIR “manipulation of fear hearkens back to a time when minorities were considered a threat”, not the ACLU. The kkk needs to be outlawed, and membership made a federal offense, punishable by prison time, and their kids be taken and put up for sealed adoption, to escape the brainwashing they’re subjected to.

  • ender2

    I disagree with the lot of you. If a human can’t segregate their religious expression from their professional self while at work they shouldn’t be teaching in a secular public school system. Whether Nun, Sikh, Muslem woman or Wizard, if one is so set on expressing their religion to impressionable school children then how can they be trusted not to interject their belief system or take things their religion disputes(evolution/creationism) out of the approved academic curriculm.

  • YEAL9

    From Ms. Uddin’s website:”Muslim Identity FormationIn these times, when Islam is under tremendous scrutiny, there is probably no issue in greater contention than that of gender relations in Islam. With the media constantly spewing out images of oppressed Muslim women and angry Muslim men, the world looks on with both fascination and disgust. The Muslim gender dynamic – supposedly a singular, unchanging construct – has become a spectacle for everyone to gawk at, comment on, and ultimately use to ridicule the larger Muslim community. But it is not just non-Muslims who are gawking; we as Muslims often find ourselves feeling somewhat awkward as well, especially as the news becomes stranger and more prevalent. “The only solution to the Muslim community’s identity woes is to delete all the female and world domination by Islam males passages in the Koran. Until then, Ms. Uddin and her staff are wasting our time and their time!!!

  • APaganplace

    I mean, look at Yeal and Mastermind, here. They probably don’t have any ‘distinctive religious garb’ :)

  • YEAL9

    continued from below:www.muslimfact.com/…islam/islam-permits-lying-to-deceive-unbelievers-and-bri.shtml -

  • Carstonio

    On one hand, I agree that Charles Hinkle’s argument was reprehensible and that the original motives behind the law were even more reprehensible. On the other hand, I think there’s a valid concern with any public school teacher of any religion making a public show of his or her religion in the classroom. Students may reasonably assume that the teacher would be biased in his or her grading, favoring students of the same religion and disfavoring students of other religions. While I don’t see that as necessarily a Constitutional issue because it doesn’t involve proselytizing, I do see it as undermining the principle of objectivity.

  • APaganplace

    So, Mastermind, having said all that:If you were teaching public high school…What would you wear?

  • garoth

    Why is it that some of the posters her ontinually focus on Islam – even when the discussion has little to do with it? Pretty much any religion can be foun to have statements encouraging the faithful to “kill the infidels.” As far as that goes – the non-religous also often follow that same path. Allowing people to wear garb that expresses something of their own faith in school is not a problem – it exposes students to the fact that we are not all the same, and that that is a good thing, in that it draws attention to our commitment to the Bill of Rights. If a teacher begins advocating for their own religion, that is a different matter. We cannot, at one and the same time, advocate tolerance, and eshew that same freedom. Our fear of those unlike us costs us dearly in terms of our own rights – security always comes at the cost of freedom. Tolerance and celebration of our differences works better.