Spread the word » Facebook Twitter
Having trouble viewing this email? View it on our website.
The Sikh Coalition Avaaz
July 8, 2011

  • Victory: California Settles to Allow All Prisoners to Keep Religiously Mandated Beards

    This past June, the State of California agreed to allow prisoners to keep unshorn beards in accordance with their faith, following a lawsuit filed by the Sikh Coalition (in partnership with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Foundation of Southern California, the ACLU's Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief and the law firm Alston & Bird LLP) against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). The suit was filed on behalf of Mr. Sukhjinder Singh Basra, a Sikh inmate who suffered repeated disciplinary sanctions for no other reason than his refusal to shave or cut his religiously-mandated beard. Under the new settlement’s terms, the CDCR will repeal a rule prohibiting inmates of all faiths from growing facial hair more than a half inch in length. In addition, Mr. Basra’s disciplinary record for refusing to cut his beard will be expunged.

    “Mr. Basra was peaceably observing his faith while posing absolutely no threat to the health and safety of the prison population,” said Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief. “We are glad that the CDCR has recognized the fundamental importance of basic religious exercise, even within the prison walls.”

Sikh Coalition Testifies at Historic Hearing on Workplace Religious Freedom

On June 30, 2011, the Sikh Coalition testified before the New York City Council in support of a proposed law that would significantly enhance religion-based protections for New York City employees.  The proposed law, titled the “Workplace Religious Freedom Act” by supporters and introduced by Council Member Mark Weprin (D-Queens), would increase the obligations of city employers to respect the right of Sikhs to maintain their articles of faith in the workplace without discrimination. According to a research report issued by the Sikh Coalition in 2008, one in ten Sikhs in New York City reported suffering discrimination in employment.

"Employees, whether Sikh or of any other religious group, should be judged based on their intelligence and qualifications, and not based on what religion they practice or what is convenient for someone else,” said Council Member Weprin.

  • Sikh Coalition Speaks at Dignity in Schools Campaign Hearing

    On June 21, 2011, the Sikh Coalition was invited to testify before the New York City Department of Education at a hearing organized by Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM) in support of the Dignity in Schools Campaign. In the Coalition’s third testimony within two months, we urged the Department of Education to protect Sikh students from school bullying.

    Specifically, we argued that zero-tolerance policies to remove bullies from school is not the answer to our students’ safety, and does not align with the message of respect for all that underlies the Sikh Coalition’s work. Instead, we believe that bullies can repair their actions through diversity education and recommended that the DOE implement restorative justice practices and Respect For All diversity training into school curriculums.

    As always, we urge Sikhs everywhere to fearlessly maintain their articles of faith.  If you or your children are being bullied, teased or physically hurt at school because of your Sikh identity, please contact us immediately at legal@sikhcoalition.org.

  • Federal Criminal Charges Dropped After Coalition Intervenes

    A U.S. federal prosecutor recently dropped criminal charges against a Sikh for wearing his kirpan into a federal facility, following the Coalition’s intervention in the matter. In May 2011, a Sikh truck driver on a routine truck delivery to a military post in Herlong, California was searched at gunpoint and detained for several hours after law enforcement officers noticed his kirpan. Officers also removed his turban and seized his kirpan while he was in custody. He was then criminally charged with violating a federal law that prohibits weapons in federal facilities. An individual found guilty of violating this law can face up to one year of imprisonment.

    Following this injustice, the driver’s family immediately contacted the Sikh Coalition for assistance. The Coalition contacted the prosecution, and sent them over 30 pages of legal precedent and policy underscoring Sikhs’ right to wear kirpans. Within weeks, the Coalition was successful in getting all of the charges dropped, and was able to secure the return of the driver’s kirpan. In addition, we plan to request that relevant law enforcement officers receive training on Sikhism so no other Sikh has to suffer the same mistreatment.

    Coalition Attends White House Celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage

    This past June, the Sikh Coalition, along with several Sikh leaders from across the country, attended a White House reception celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage. President Obama addressed the attendees and applauded the efforts of local grassroots leaders within the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.

    Just prior to the reception, the White House Office of Public Engagement held an Asian American and Pacific Islander community leader briefing to which the Sikh Coalition was also invited.  To see photos from the event, click here.

    Coalition Invited to Speak at New York City Council Hearing

    The Sikh Coalition was invited by the New York City Council Committee on Education to testify at a June 13th hearing on school bullying. Our testimony focused on the school bullying crisis facing Sikh students in New York City public schools, arguing that schools are not effectively protecting their students from harm and are taking too casual an approach in addressing bullying.

    Chancellor’s Regulation A-832, adopted in 2008 as a result of a grassroots campaign spearheaded by the Sikh Coalition, establishes an annual diversity training program entitled Respect for All and lays out procedures for preventing and addressing student-to-student bias-based harassment. According to our research, only 14 percent of teachers and staff surveyed said that the Chancellor’s Regulation and the Respect for All program were “effective” or “very effective” in addressing bullying and bigotry in their schools, and only about 30 percent said their school even offered the training. We recommended that Congress pass the Safe Schools Improvement Act and Student Non-Discrimination Act, fully implement Chancellor’s Regulation A-832 and expand the Regulation so it addresses staff-to-student bias-based bullying as well.

    A Sikh Presenter’s Course Participant Gives Her Review

    The Sikh Presenter's Course is a 3 day series of workshops designed to train Sikh community members on how to professionally deliver Sikh Awareness Presentations. The workshops are led by trained professionals well-versed in teaching individuals effective presentation and public speaking skills.

    Following the overwhelming positive response the Coalition received after the first two sessions, both held in New York City, we brought the course to Fremont, California this past April. One participant, Meeta Kaur, was kind enough to write a glowing review that was featured on the site www.sikhchic.com. As she says:

    “It was rigorous. Reflective. Fun. Funny. Insightful. Imaginative. Inspirational. The multiple evaluations on our speaking skills throughout the course were priceless. And with each ‘aha’ moment . . . each participant grew into their potential as an effective and dynamic speaker.”

    To read the full review, click here.

  • Sikh Coalition 2011 Diversity Video Competition - Accepting Submissions NOW!

    The Coalition is currently accepting short films for the Diversity Video Competition.  The purpose of the Competition is to engage in an artistic dialogue on civil rights issues, stereotypes, and myths surrounding minority groups with a particular anchor in the Sikh experience. It is through this dialogue that we hope to dissolve ignorance and spread awareness of discriminated minorities. The first prize winner for the Competition receives $1,000 and will have his/her film premiered at the Sikh Art and Film Festival in New York City this October.  To read more or apply to the Competition, please click here.

  • Intern for the Coalition this Fall!

    The Sikh Coalition Internship Program gives students hands-on experience in promoting civil and human rights. Throughout the years, interns have worked to further the mission and vision of the Sikh Coalition by helping to achieve legal victories, as well as educating and empowering the community and contributing to the growth of the organization.

    The Coalition is looking for passionate individuals dedicated to protecting and advocating the civil and human rights of all individuals. Applicants should be detail-oriented, well-organized, self-motivated and committed to the internship. For more information, including how to apply, click here.

In this Issue

  • Donation Now!
  • Visit our website.
  • Connect with on Facebook
  • Watch our videos
You are receiving this email because was subscribed to our email list. Click here to unsubscribe.