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Nebraska senators advance bill to lift religious garb ban

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Posted at 12:25 PM, Feb 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-22 13:25:05-05

A bill that would lift Nebraska's ban on religious garb worn by teachers in classrooms has won initial approval from lawmakers.

Senators gave the proposal first-round approval on Tuesday with a 36-1 vote.

The ban prohibits teachers from wearing any sort of religious garb, including habits, burqas and yarmulkes. It was enacted in 1919 under pressure from the Ku Klux Klan amid a national wave of anti-Catholic sentiment. It's rarely enforced but came to lawmakers' attention after a Catholic nun was rejected for a substitute teaching job in Norfolk.

Thirty-six states had adopted similar bans, but Nebraska and Pennsylvania are the only ones that have yet to repeal them.

Speaker of the Legislature Jim Scheer says he introduced the bill because public schools shouldn't punish teachers for what they wear.