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New Illinois laws excuses student’s absences for religious reasons, makes Muhammad Ali’s birthday a school holiday

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(WSIL) -- Governor JB Pritzker signed legislation that expands protections of religious freedom for students and establishes Muhammad Ali’s birthday, January 17, as a commemorative school holiday.  

“I am pleased to sign these three pieces of legislation that will make our schools more inclusive and safer,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “These pieces of legislation will not only expand protections for all our students, they will ensure that schools across Illinois recognize the contributions of Americans of different faiths. Students of all religious backgrounds deserve our full support in our classrooms and these bills will help make that a reality.” 

HB 160 requires school districts to excuse students from engaging in a physical education course during a period of religious fasting. The student’s parent or guardian must notify the school principal in writing that the pupil is participating in a religious fast. 

HB  169 allows a student to be absent from public school due to religious reasons, including the observance of a religious holiday or participation in religious instruction. The bill also allows schools to require the parent or guardian of the student to give notice of the absence to school officials.  

SB 564 requires history courses to include the study of the contributions made by Americans of different faith practices, including, but not limited to, Muslim Americans, Jewish Americans, Christian Americans, Hindu Americans, Sikh Americans, Buddhist Americans, and any other community of faith that has shaped America. 

The bill also adds the birthday of Muhammad Ali, January 17, to the list of commemorative school holidays. Commemorative school holidays recognize patriotic, civic, cultural, or historic persons on regular school days.

HB 160 and HB 169 are effective immediately. 

SB 564 is effective January 1, 2022.