HARRISBURG – The Senate of Pennsylvania approved a measure to eliminate a section from the state’s Education Code that prohibits a teacher from wearing any dress, mark, emblem, or insignia indicative of his or her faith or denomination, according to the measure’s sponsors, Sens. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) and Judy Schwank (D-Berks).

Senate Bill 84 would align Pennsylvania with every other state in the nation in preserving and protecting First Amendment rights for educators.

“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,” Phillips-Hill said. “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.”

The senators argue the existing archaic law violates the First Amendment.  

“It’s a First Amendment right to express your religious beliefs. Everyone, and most certainly our educators, should be free to exercise that right in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This is not an endorsement of any one religion; it allows people of all faiths to express themselves,” Schwank said.

Throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Ku Klux Klan supported similar laws across the nation due to anti-Catholic sentiment at the time. Pennsylvania’s original 1895 law served as the model for three dozen states that pursued similar anti-First Amendment laws. Today, Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation with this law in place. Nebraska was the most recent state to repeal its law in 2017. 

This measure now advances to House of Representatives for its consideration.