People in Nebraska are surprised to hear their state has come up in a hot Canadian political debate. Tell folks here that the Parti Quebecois cites Nebraska's law on religious clothing as a precedent, and prepare for a series of puzzled stares.
That's because the law is nearly a century old and Nebraskans have forgotten it exists.
The PQ actually pointed to the law as a precedent for its values charter, a centrepiece of its current plan for re-election on April 7.
When he first introduced the charter last year, the minister responsible pointed to two U.S. states as evidence that Quebec would not be the only North American jurisdiction to ban religious clothing for state employees.
But during a recent trip to one of those states The Canadian Press couldn't find anyone aware of the law — with news of it surprising a longtime politician, a legal analyst at the state legislature, a legislative historian, a political activist, multiple school-board officials, representatives of a teachers' union, two helpful research assistants at the Omaha public library, and the people at an Islamic centre.
"I never knew anything about any such kind of ridiculous law like that," said Chaka Muhammad Benson, a 26-year army drill sergeant and a convert to Islam.
"I think it's kind of stupid, if you ask me... If it doesn't have any hindrance on that person in the performance of their duties, then why go through all that rigamarole? It doesn't make any sense."
Clearly, the Nebraska state legislators of 1919 felt differently.
On Valentine's Day of that year, lawmakers voted for a bill that would punish teachers wearing religious garb in public schools.
Their target was Catholic nuns.
The sisters risked a one-year suspension, along with a $100 fine or 30 days in the county jail. The legislative committee that studied the bill heard how one family felt forced to move to a new town to avoid having their children taught by Catholics.
IF NEBRASKA TRIED TO IMPLEMENT IT CAIR THUGS WILL BE FIRST TO FILE A LAWSUIT AND CRY ISLAMOPHOBIA.