Sikh Soldier Sues, Earns Landmark Victory in Fight to End Religious Discrimination
On March 3, 2016, a federal judge ruled
that the U.S. Department of Defense could not subject a decorated Sikh soldier to unfair and biased testing on account of his religious beliefs. The Sikh Coalition, in conjunction with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and McDermott Will & Emery, sued on behalf of Captain Simratpal Singh to prevent impromptu additional testing that is not required of any other soldier in the U.S. military.
While the court ruled in favor of CPT Singh and banned the tests, he still awaits the final decision on his permanent religious accommodation by March 31, 2016. If the military does not fully accommodate CPT Singh, the Sikh Coalition plans to further litigate the case in our ongoing effort to permanently end religious discrimination by our nation’s largest employer.
To read more about the case, read news coverage in The New York Times
and Army Times
Hate Crime Charge Filed in LA Bus Driver Case
The Inglewood District Attorney’s Office filed a hate crime charge on March 2, 2016, against the assailant who brutally attacked a turbaned Sikh L.A. County bus driver. Click here
to read the story in the LA Times.
On November 6, 2015, Mr. Balwinder Jit Singh was called a “terrorist“ and “suicide bomber,” and was accused of hijacking his bus while he was viciously assaulted. This left Mr. Singh in the hospital with a disfigured face and infection in his eye. Local police initially failed to take into account the hateful slurs used against Mr. Singh, and classified the crime as a misdemeanor assault. The Sikh Coalition’s joint legal and communications advocacy resulted in a felony count of battery on transit personnel with a felony hate crime enhancement.
Gurdwara Desecrated in Spokane, Washington
On the night of March 3, 2016, Jeffrey C. Pittman broke into a Spokane Sikh gurdwara
(house of worship) and desecrated the Guru Granth Sahib, while causing nearly $30,000 in additional damage. Mr. Pittman, after being detained by Spokane police, claimed that he broke in looking for food before coming to the mistaken conclusion that the Sikh gurdwara was a mosque connected with ISIS. We condemn the targeting of Muslims, Sikhs or any other faith group.
The Sikh Coalition has provided immediate legal and media support to the Spokane sangat and will continue to do so as authorities pursue hate crime charges in the case.
Sikh Comedian Forced to Remove Turban at US Airport
Sikh comedian and YouTube star Jasmeet Singh (also known as JusReign) was forced by the Transportation Security Administration to remove his turban
and walk in public with his head uncovered. We continue our legal, media and advocacy work addressing the TSA on behalf of Sikhs and others with religious headwear.
After asking Mr. Singh to step into a private room for an extra screening, TSA officials told him to take off his turban for examination. Mr. Singh complied, and no issues were found. When Mr. Singh asked for a mirror to retie his turban, officials refused his request and said he must walk to the bathroom, in full public view without his turban. This comes on the heels of an airport profiling case involving Sikh designer and actor Waris Ahluwalia
. The media reach
of these cases educated hundreds of millions globally on Sikh civil rights issues.
Please use our FlyRights app to report incidents of discrimination by the TSA. The app is available for both Android and Apple phones. More info: http://fly-rights.org/
Sikh Officer Promoted to Major in February
Congratulations to Major Tejdeep Singh Rattan on his promotion from captain to major!
Major Rattan is one of only four Sikhs who have received hard-won accommodations in the last decade to serve in the U.S. military full time with their turbans and beards.
Major Rattan's meritorious service reinforces the fact that Sikhs can and do successfully serve with their articles of faith intact. His success adds weight to the Sikh Coalition's campaign
of ending religious discrimination by the U.S. military, which enforces a presumptive ban on observant Sikhs.
Partner With the Sikh Coalition This Vaisakhi
The Sikh Coalition is looking for community members around the country who are interested in partnering with us this Vaisakhi to help raise awareness about Sikhs. The Sikh Coalition has a number of resources that will help Sikh Americans become more involved in their local communities in order to help raise awareness about the Sikh faith and identity. There are lots of ways to get involved this April: pass a Vaisakhi resolution in your community, offer Sikh Awareness resources to schools, display Sikh information at your library, write letters to local media or organize an open house at your Gurdwara. If you are interested in get involved or learning more, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
. We will provide all resources and support that you may need!
Volunteer Advocate Participates In Hackathon At Facebook HQ
Volunteer Advocate Gurmeet Kaur (Class of 2015) participated in a collaborative project at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California, from February 22-24, 2016. In partnership with Google and Facebook, Affinis Labs hosted the No2H8 Hackathon
to develop innovative social media campaigns to combat online hate. The teams competed in a fast-paced, race-around-the-clock project to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges and live audiences. The winning team received seed funding, mentoring, production support to fully develop and launch its campaign and tickets to SXSW in March. Gurmeet Kaur seized the opportunity and was the sole Sikh representative at the event, securing the last available spot. The hackathon challenged all participants to think about the bigger picture of online hate, to consider the different targets of online hate, and gave valuable experience in online campaigns, tools and strategies.
Sikh Coalition Honored at NYU Islamic Center Gala
The Sikh Coalition was honored at the New York University Islamic Center's 3rd Annual Benefit Gala on February 21, 2016. The Sikh Coalition received the Community Choice Award for its commitment to advocacy for all people, including the Muslim American community. Executive Director Sapreet Kaur and Board Member Manmeet Kaur accepted the award on behalf of the Sikh Coalition during the event. The Sikh Coalition was honored alongside leaders in the Muslim American community.
Senior Staff Attorney Urges for Meaningful Activism at Columbia University
On February 14, 2016, Sikh Coalition Senior Staff Attorney Gurjot Kaur spoke at the South Asian Millennials Conference
at Columbia University on police brutality, violence against Muslims and Sikhs, and solidarity-building between African Americans and South Asians. Gurjot urged the audience to push back against the model minority myth, respectability politics, and discussed recent police brutality cases.
"Being an activist and an ally is not standing up against a bigoted remark once; it’s a lifelong commitment," said Gurjot. "And it’s tough, but if you want to see change and a better world, you have to do it. So explain this to your loved ones, your families. Get to know what the Black Lives Matter movement is asking for . . . Talk about how anti-blackness affects all of us. Walk out of this room committed to a life of action."
Volunteer Advocate Testifies on Hate Crimes Before California State Commission
On January 22, 2016, Sikh Coalition Volunteer Advocate Sehej Kaur testified on behalf of the Sikh American community in a hearing of the California Commission on Asian & Pacific Islander American Affairs about the impact of hate crimes on Sikh Americans. The commission advises the governor and legislature of California on how to respond most effectively to the needs of the state’s Asian and Pacific Islander American communities. Alongside a representative of the Muslim community and a representative of the Los Angeles Human Rights Commission, Sehej Kaur highlighted the recent spike in hate crime incidents targeting Sikhs across the country, and the high rates of bullying of Sikh children in schools.
College Students -- We Need You!
We are currently accepting applications for the Sikh Coalition's summer internship program on a rolling basis until April 15, 2016. The Sikh Coalition's internship program is ideal for undergraduate and graduate students looking to gain hands-on experience in the civil rights world. Interns have the opportunity to work directly with the Sikh Coalition staff to fight for and empower the Sikh American community. Summer internships are full-time over the course of 10 weeks. Internships are available in our Development, Community Development, Media & Communications and Legal Programs. For more information on how to apply, please click here
Our Powerhouse Legal Team is Expanding -- Apply Today!
We’re hiring! The Sikh Coalition seeks a highly motivated staff attorney, based in the organization’s New York City office, to join us on the forefront of our dynamic religious rights and anti-discrimination work.
The staff attorney will work as part of the Sikh Coalition’s Legal Program, which provides legal assistance to Sikhs who have been discriminated against or subject to bias based upon their religious beliefs or Sikh identity. Our attorneys have successfully litigated cases against major government and corporate employers alike, and have created opportunities for Sikhs to fearlessly live, work, play, learn and raise our children in America. Our Legal Program is committed to ensuring that no Sikh ever has to choose between their faith and the American dream.
This position is open only to attorneys admitted to at least one U.S. based jurisdiction, preferably New York. For more details, please click here
Sikh Coalition Files Amicus Brief with Supreme Court in Prisoners’ Rights Case
The Sikh Coalition, represented by the Stanford Law School Religious Liberty Clinic, filed a brief as amicus curiae (friend of the court) urging the U.S. Supreme Court to review the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals’ most recent decision in Knight v. Thompson. The Circuit Court had previously ruled that an Alabama prison could refuse to accommodate a Native American prisoner's religious request to maintain unshorn hair. Following its unanimous decision on behalf of a bearded Muslim prisoner in Holt v. Hobbs, the U.S. Supreme Court remanded Knight v. Thompson for reconsideration by the Eleventh Circuit, which unfortunately again ruled to allow restrictions on the religious grooming practices of inmates.
The Sikh Coalition’s brief argues that (1) these policies adversely impact the religious rights of Sikh prisoners, and (2) Alabama’s failure to consider accommodations provided to Sikh and other minority prisoners across the country undermines the religious protections afforded by the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Holt v. Hobbs.
to read the Knight II brief.
to read the Sikh Coalition's previous Knight I brief.
JSC Leader Explains Effects of Islamophobia in Schools to Parents
On March 5, 2016, Jaspreet Singh of the Junior Sikh Coalition was a panelist for the Muslim Community Network’s safe schools panel, and was joined by the Council on American–Islamic Relations, the Commission for Human Rights, and the NYC Department of Education. Jaspreet spoke to a diverse audience of parents, educators, and city officials about bias-based discrimination and bullying within schools and the urgent need for proactive student safety measures, particularly in this politically charged year.
“This panel was effective in sharing how we can improve policies to not only prevent discriminatory incidents within schools, but help ensure the safety of all students and responsibility of school administrations," said Jaspreet. "[Participating in this panel] allowed me to voice my opinions about how Islamophobia is not only affecting Sikh and Muslim youth in New York City, but all youth.”
In this Issue