restricted access Free Exercise and the Fashion Police: Nebraska's Ban on Religious Dress

Early in 2010, the state of Oregon repealed its law, enacted in 1923, banning public school teachers from wearing religious dress while engaged in their duties as teachers. The Oregon repeal left only two states with laws banning public school teachers from wearing religious dress—Pennsylvania and Nebraska. Regulations of the dress and conduct of public employees while on the job involve questions of how to reconcile the two religion provisions of the First Amendment—the free-exercise of religion and the nonestablishment of religion. The purpose of this article is to analyze the principle of government neutrality toward religion, using Nebraska's ban on religious dress as a case study. Although the states' bans on religious dress were enacted originally to prevent members of Catholic religious orders from teaching in the public schools, the most-recent applications of these laws (which occurred outside Nebraska) restricted adherents of minority religions from equal opportunity to work as public educators. Thus neutrality toward religion has proven inadequate to institute a full commitment to religious equality.