On April 11, the Sikh Coalition and our partners filed a historic lawsuit against the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) for forcing our clients to choose between a career of military service and their Sikh faith. The Sikh Coalition, Winston & Strawn LLP, and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed suit on behalf of USMC Captain (Capt) Sukhbir Singh Toor and pre-accession Marine recruits Mr. Milaap Singh Chahal and Mr. Aekash Singh; BakerHostetler, representing Sikh American Veterans Alliance (SAVA), joined us in representing pre-accession Marine recruit Mr. Jaskirat Singh.
To date, all of our clients have been granted partial accommodations by the USMC, but none of those accommodations allow them to maintain their kesh during most deployments abroad. In addition, the recruits have been ordered to sacrifice all of their articles of faith while they are at boot camp. This lawsuit is the latest step in our 12-year campaign to end religious discrimination in the military, becuase no one should have to choose between their faith and their career. Click here
to read the latest exclusive New York Times story about this historic lawsuit, and here
to read the original feature on Capt Toor.
This August, sangats nationwide will commemorate the 10th anniversary of the August 5, 2012, shooting in Oak Creek, WI. We continue to honor the seven Sikh community members who ultimately lost their lives and those who were critically injured from the shooting. These individuals, their families, and the sangat remain forever in our prayers as we near this important anniversary. In response, the Sikh Coalition is working to ensure that every American remembers this tragedy and that it remains a part of our collective history.
This year, the Sikh Coalition invites sangats nationwide
to come together to honor the 10th anniversary by: hosting a National Day of Seva where you can organize a seva project in your community, a National Night of Vigil at your local gurdwara, or through supporting policy asks by mobilizing your sangat to take concrete acts. If you would like to have a preliminary conversation about how you can lead on any of the commemorative events above, feel free to contact our team at firstname.lastname@example.org
Almost one year ago, Rouble Claire, a first generation Sikh American and father, was threatened with a racial slur and vehicular violence at a local store and then, in a second separate but related incident hours later, subjected to more racial slurs and hateful graffiti at his home. Mr. Claire immediately notified the Sutter County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO), but after months of delay and inaction, he retained the Sikh Coalition for free legal help in October of 2021. After the Sikh Coalition pushed for a serious investigation, the SCSO ultimately recommended bringing charges against the offender. However, the Sutter County District Attorney’s Office (SCDAO) refused to prosecute the case.
After giving the SCDAO every chance to do their job and bring the appropriate charges, the Sikh Coalition urged community members this week to join us fighting for Mr. Claire. Using our advocacy tool, nearly 200 community members contacted the SCDAO calling for appropriate charges in this case between May 10 and 11. In the meantime, Mr. Claire and civil attorneys referred to him by our legal team have filed a civil suit over the incident; read about Mr. Claire’s fight for justice in the Sacramento Bee exclusive facilitated by the Sikh Coalition.
On April 14, Vernon Douglas was arrested in connection with the Sunday, April 3, assault of Nirmal Singh and the April 12 assault of two more Sikh men. Additionally, Hezekiah Coleman was arrested on April 12 in connection with the attacks that day. Both men were charged with a number of crimes, including assault as a hate crime and robbery as a hate crime. Manjit Singh, the son of Nirmal Singh (who has since returned to India), expressed his family’s gratitude for the development.
On April 13, Sikh Coalition staff were invited to join New York Governor Kathy Hochul and local Queens Sikh community leaders at an anti-hate crime rally in Queens to address the continued rise in hate crimes against Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities in New York City. We thank the governor and other movement leaders for their attention to this urgent issue, and we also continue to be grateful to sangat leaders who have been relentless in providing support to those recently hurt by hate and pursuing justice in their cases.
On April 9, the Oak Creek Public Library and the Sikh community of Wisconsin hosted an open house to share a new Sikh Book Collection available to the public. Speakers included Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes, Mayor of Oak Creek Dan Bukiewicz, Oak Creek-Franklin Joint School Board President Frank Carini, Oak Creek Library Director Jill Lininger, former U.S. Attorney James Santelle, and Sikh community leaders. The collection includes books written by Sikhs and written about the Sikh faith. This event was an important occasion for the sangat in Wisconsin to celebrate and share more about the Sikh faith to the wider community, especially as the 10 year anniversary of the 2012 Oak Creek gurdwara mass shooting approaches this fall.
On April 15 and 16, multiple Sikh Coalition staff members traveled to the American Trucking Show in Fresno, CA, to distribute Know Your Rights information and other resources
to thousands of Punjabi American truckers. Throughout our more than 20 years, the Sikh Coalition has worked for the benefit of Sikh truckers on multiple occasions, including through our pro bono legal services; this engagement remains critical as more and more Sikhs and Punjabis join the trucking industry in the United States. While at the trucking show, Sikh Coalition colleagues fielded an interview
about this work with Punjabi Radio USA.
On April 27, Sikh Coalition Community Development Manager Inderpreet Kaur facilitated a virtual presentation on Sikhism in partnership with Jefferson Health, a network of hospitals in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The interactive session, entitled “Basics of the Sikh Faith: Important Considerations for Healthcare Professionals,” was attended by Jefferson clinical health team members, including doctors, nurses, tech workers, medical students, and others. The session was also recorded for future onboarding. For the last three years, the Sikh Coalition has been working with the Jefferson Health team to provide information about the Sikh faith and community, as well as recommending best practices for respectfully engaging Sikh patients and visitors; this relationship-building work facilitated this latest training opportunity.
Throughout the month of April, sangats across the country have engaged their civic leaders to secure Sikh Awareness and Appreciation Month (SAAM) proclamations, recognitions, and resolutions from their local and state governments. SAAM resolutions have been secured this year in places including Southwest Ranches, FL; the commonwealth of Massachusetts; the state of Michigan; the state of Minnesota; Canton, MI; and Westchester County, NY.
Every year, the Sikh Coalition is proud to share resources
on how best to approach elected officials at any level of government about celebrating SAAM. Congratulations to all sangat leaders and sevadaars who worked for these and other proclamations!
Stanford Law School invited Harsimran Kaur, the Sikh Coalition’s Senior Counsel, to speak to students in the Mills Legal Clinic as part of its “Grand Rounds” speaker series. Students work in the clinics full-time for a quarter or more, handling real cases under the supervision of law school faculty, allowing them to engage in an immersive experience that reinforces what they have learned in the classroom. The Sikh Coalition’s legal team has specifically co-counseled with the law school’s Religious Liberty Clinic on several discrimination cases during the past seven years.
As a Grand Rounds attorney participant, Harsimran spoke to approximately 50 clinic students about bias in legal institutions, representation of marginalized groups, and diversity/inclusion/allyship in legal practice. Both the students and faculty were particularly impressed by the many ways in which the Sikh Coalition has worked strategically and in concert with other diverse communities and organizations to broadly advance civil rights for all Americans.