Religious clothing and jewelry will no longer be banned in Nebraska public classrooms under a bill approved by the Unicameral.
Legislators approved LB 62 on a 39-5-4 vote.
But, not until overcoming one last attempt to derail the bill by Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, who mounted a filibuster during each round of debate.
Chambers told colleagues during final reading on Thursday he’s unimpressed that the original law might have had a suspect origin.
“So when these bills are brought and I’m told that the original law that’s being repealed was put in the law books at the instigation of the Ku Klux Klan, what does that mean to me?” Chambers asked during legislative floor debate. “As you all say, a blind hog finds an acorn every now and then. A stopped clock is right twice a day. So, if a stopped clock can be right twice a day, why cannot the Ku Klux Klan do something that’s right?”
LB 62 was sponsored by Speaker Jim Scheer of Norfolk.
Supporters say it removes a barrier to a teacher’s First Amendment right to freely express their religion. Though brought to the legislature at the request of a Catholic nun, the bill also would allow Muslim women to wear the hijab while teaching, according to supporters.
Chambers contended lifting the ban would allow a breach in the separation of church and state.
During his filibuster on final reading, Chambers criticized organized religion, especially the Catholic Church.
Chambers taunted his colleagues prior to the final vote, invoking the biblical passage that if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed you could move mountains.
“You don’t believe that though do you? I know you don’t believe it. Who in here believes faith the size of a grain of mustard seed can move a mountain? I see one hand. I see two hands. I see a number of hands,” Chambers said as several senators raised their hands. Chambers then picked up a coffee cup from his desk. “Alright, with your faith, move this cup. Put up or shut up. Move the cup. And if I’m tempting God, may I be struck dead.”
Legislators rejected Chambers’ motion to stall a final vote on the bill and then gave it overwhelming approval. LB 62 now goes to Gov. Pete Ricketts’ desk.
AUDIO: Sen. Ernie Chambers mounts one last attempt to derail LB 62. [10 1/2 minutes]