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The Sikh Coalition News
September 28, 2013

The Sikh Coalition Creates “Know Your Rights” Handout About the New Federal Kirpan Policy

The Sikh Coalition has created a “Know Your Rights” document explaining the federal government’s new policy allowing for greater accommodation of Sikh kirpans in most federal buildings. The federal government implemented this policy on December 10, 2012, and made it public in February of 2013. We believe that the new policy was created in response to a lawsuit brought by Kawaljeet Kaur Tagore, a former federal employee who was fired for wearing her kirpan to work.

The policy applies to the 9,000+ federal facilities secured by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Protective Service (FPS). It is a major step forward for the Sikh community with respect to kirpan rights. We believe that this policy will encourage greater accommodation of kirpans across the country throughout both the public and private sectors.

The Policy
Federal law generally bars the entry of what it considers “weapons” into federal facilities. However, the new FPS policy acknowledges that civil rights laws may mandate the entry of certain seemingly prohibited items – like kirpans – into federal government buildings.

Previously, federal law barred the entry of knives with blade lengths of 2.5 inches or greater – including kirpans – into federal facilities.

Under the new policy:

  • Sikhs carrying kirpans with blades of less than 2.5 inches will, in most instances, continue to be allowed entry into FPS-secured buildings with their kirpans.
  • Sikhs carrying kirpans with blades 2.5 inches or greater may request an exception (temporary) or exemption (permanent) to enter FPS-secured buildings with their kirpans. The granting of an accommodation is discretionary.
  • Sikhs initially denied entry with their kirpans will have an opportunity to appeal the decision to FPS headquarters.
The Sikh Coalition has created a “Know Your Rights” document in both English and Punjabi that explains the policy in detail, as well as the process for Sikhs to request entry into a federal facility with their kirpans.

We recommend that kirpan-wearing Sikhs print out, review, and keep a copy of this “Know Your Rights” document if they plan to visit a federal facility.

Background on the Policy’s Origins

We believe that FPS wrote and implemented the accommodation policy in response to a groundbreaking lawsuit brought by former federal employee Kawaljit Kaur Tagore. After she took amrit and began wearing a kirpan with a blade longer than 2.5 inches (the federal limit), Ms. Tagore was barred from her federal workplace and ultimately fired from her job. Represented at the time by the Sikh Coalition, Ms. Tagore filed a lawsuit in federal court in 2009 against the federal government. Ms. Tagore is currently represented by private counsel and her lawsuit is pending before a federal appellate court. Even though her suit is still pending, the federal government has changed its prohibited items policy to better accommodate Sikhs who carry kirpans.

Whether Sikhs will be granted accommodations to wear their kirpans into federal buildings may differ facility by facility. We ask that Sikhs contact us to report whether they have been allowed to enter federal facilities with their kirpans.

As always, the Sikh Coalition urges all Sikhs to practice their faith fearlessly. If you need help requesting an accommodation to wear your kirpan, please contact the Sikh Coalition.

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