Pa. Senate advances bill to drop school religious garb ban

The Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Two decades after a teacher’s aide was suspended for wearing a cross necklace at school, Pennsylvania lawmakers are looking to remove a provision in state law that bars educators from wearing religious garb while in the classroom.

The Senate approved the legislation by a 49-0 vote on Wednesday. The measure now goes to the House.

“This long overdue legislation needs to reach the governor’s desk to make Pennsylvania the 50th state to eradicate this archaic law once and for all,” state Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York Township, said in a statement. “With its broad, bipartisan support from legislators and a diverse coalition of stakeholders, this bill will uphold William Penn’s founding principles that our Commonwealth stands for religious freedom and tolerance.”

In this file photo, state Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill speaks during a press conference to remind Pennsylvanians of the crucial role they have in ensuring their information is correct in the new Federal Communications Commission broadband access map at the Northern York County Regional Police Department substation in Spring Grove on Monday, Dec. 12, 2022.

Phillips-Hill Phillips-Hill cosponsored the bill with state Sen. Judy Schwank, D-Berks. It would uphold a 2003 Pennsylvania federal court decision in which an Indiana County teacher was reinstated and provided back pay after she had been suspended for refusing to remove her cross necklace.

Under the current language in the public school code in state law, an educator wearing religious garb must be suspended for one year and will be fired after multiple offenses. Administrators who don't enforce the law could be fined and could lose their job.

The cosponsors said the measure applies to expression of all faiths.