More Than 80 National Park Security Personnel Trained
November 4, 2019 (New York, NY) -- Last week, the Sikh Coalition conducted a series of trainings for more than 80 security personnel at the Statue of Liberty National Monument on Ellis Island, NY.
In 2018, the Sikh Coalition began to document concerns from community members facing frustrations when visiting the Statue of Liberty: on multiple occasions, Sikhs visiting the park were met with hostility and verbal abuse when trying to enter with their articles of faith, including kirpans. It quickly became clear that security personnel were inconsistently applying screening standards and that posted policies were unclear.
As such, the Sikh Coalition sent a letter to the National Parks Service citing these concerns on December 20, 2018. That outreach ultimately led to this week’s series of Sikh awareness trainings in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Justice Community Relations Service, which helped attendees understand the significance of the Sikh articles of faith and how to respectfully interact with Sikhs who wear them.
“We are confident that more security officials will understand, respect, and appreciate the Sikh articles of faith after this training,” said Sim J Singh, Sikh Coalition Senior Manager of Policy and Advocacy. “It is our hope that we can symbolically light the torch of enlightenment at the Statue of Liberty and remind everyone of the park’s inherent mission to accept all visitors from around the world.”
Every year, the Sikh Coalition receives numerous requests for consultations regarding kirpans and other religious accommodations. While the privacy considerations of our clients do not allow us to discuss most of these cases, many have presented opportunities to educate non-Sikhs on our articles of faith.
Protecting the right of free exercise of religion–including by carrying articles of faith like the kirpan–remains central to the Sikh Coalition’s work. We are the only civil rights organization with a dedicated team of lawyers that specializes in religious freedom matters for the Sikh American community. We will continue to work with institutions across the United States to ensure that articles of faith in schools, places of employment, and public spaces are accommodated.
As always, the Sikh Coalition encourages you to practice your faith fearlessly.