San Francisco, CA - The Sikh Coalition and several allies this week publicly urged California Attorney General Kamala Harris to stop fighting against Mr. Trilochan Singh Oberoi, a Sikh who wants to serve as a California Corrections Officer. The Sikh Coalition, Asian Law Caucus, Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, Bay Area Association of Muslim Lawyers and attorneys from Dhillon & Smith, LLP participated in a press conference calling on the Attorney General and Governor Jerry Brown to accept Sikhs into service at the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCR). They were among 34 civil rights organizations from around the country that endorsed a joint letter, initiated by the Sikh Coalition, in support of Mr. Oberoi.
Nearly six years ago, Mr. Oberoi was denied the ability to apply for a job as a prison guard in Folsom, California because of his religiously mandated beard. On November 10, 2008, after a two-day trial, the State Personnel Board’s Appeal Division determined that he suffered unlawful workplace discrimination and asked that his job application be considered “forthwith.” Today, more than two years after a final adjudication in Mr. Oberoi’s favor, he still does not have a job with CDCR. Instead, the Attorney General’s office is using California taxpayer dollars to seek dismissal of Oberoi’s case, even though beard exemptions are made for medical reasons, and even though bearded Sikhs now serve with distinction in the United States Army.
The joint letter to Governor Brown states “We find the California Attorney General’s adversarial posture in this case to be demeaning to religious minorities and utterly inconsistent with your own obligation to defend civil rights for all Californians.” Speaking at the press conference, Eric Rassbach of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty summed it up poignantly: “Just because someone belongs to a religious minority that is misunderstood by, or frankly just completely unknown to the general public, does not make that person’s conscience any less precious or his dignity any less deserving than the religions that we all know.”
The Sikh Coalition thanks its organizational partners for standing on the side of civil rights. As always, we urge Sikhs everywhere to fearlessly maintain their articles of faith.
Click here to read a news article by the Associated Press
Click here to read a news report on KQED Public Radio
Click here to watch a video of the press conference
Click here to watch a photo slideshow of the press conference