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The Sikh Coalition News
January 5, 2022
  • Images: Client Simranveer Kaur in upper left corner, December 2021 trainings for the GCRTA on right

    Kirpan Case Leads to Trainings

    January 5, 2022 (Cleveland, OH) -- Last month, the Sikh Coalition successfully followed through on the resolution of a kirpan-related legal intake, including by securing an individual accommodation for our client, as well as hosting a training that reached more than 100 employees in the city of Cleveland, Ohio.

    In May of 2021, Simranveer Kaur was carrying her kirpan when she attempted to use public transportation in the city of Cleveland. The driver of the bus that she boarded told her she couldn’t have a knife on the bus, but Simranveer explained that the kirpan was a Sikh article of faith and that asking her to remove it was a violation of her First Amendment rights. Unfortunately, the driver insisted that he would call the police if she did not exit the bus or give up her kirpan.

    “My experience shows how critical it is to know your religious rights--even when others would deny them,” said Simranveer. “When I stepped off the bus that day, I won’t deny that I was extremely frustrated. But I turned my energy to leveraging the Sikh Coalition’s free legal aid to ensure that nothing like this ever happens to another Sikh in my city.”

    After speaking with Simranveer, our legal team sent a letter to the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) detailing the incident and asking for follow-up action. In return, the GCRTA offered a full apology to Simranveer, sent an immediate bulletin to their staff about kirpans, and worked to arrange trainings with the Sikh Coalition. Last month, GCRTA hosted Sikh Coalition staff for two full days of Sikh awareness trainings for their bus operators, staff trainers, service supervisors, and security personnel. All told, the trainings reached more than 100 employees; moreover, the GCRTA has also committed to including Sikh awareness training as part of their onboarding process for every new hire moving forward.

    “Sikhs, like all Americans, have a right to the free expression of their religion--and that includes maintaining articles of faith like the kirpan,” said Sikh Coalition Senior Legal Client Manager Aasees Kaur, who delivered the trainings to GCRTA. “We were glad to engage the GCRTA and expect that these trainings will prevent similar incidents for Sikhs simply trying to go about their business in public like anyone else.”

    The Sikh Coalition continues to serve as the leading source of legal aid for Sikh community members who encounter kirpan issues at school, work, or in public settings. The vast majority of our kirpan-related cases are successfully resolved through accommodation requests handled privately--but as Simranveer’s case demonstrates, proper education and training is an essential step to helping non-Sikh audiences understand that kirpans are both non-threatening and protected religious expression. If you or someone you know has been prohibited from maintaining your kirpan, please reach out to our team for free legal aid.

    As always, the Sikh Coalition urges you to practice your faith fearlessly.

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