dinsdag 3 maart 2009

Historic Kirpan Bill Introduced in California

California Lawmaker Works with Coalition to Propose Law Mandating Kirpan Education

  Click here to read the text of the legislation introduced in California.

California State Assembly Logo

 "The Sikh community... should not live in fear of arrest by law enforcement for carrying the kirpan."
-Assembly Member Warren Furutani

News Coverage of the Proposed Law:

Contra Costa Times

LA Times

Sacramento, CA (February 26, 2009) - A proposed law to mandate kirpan education for California's peace law enforcement officers was introduced by Assembly Member Warren Furutani (D-Long Beach) in the California State Legislature this week. Since November 2008, the Sikh Coalition has been working alongside state lawmakers and law enforcement representatives to draft this legislation. Were it to pass, this would be the first law pertaining specifically to the Sikh kirpan anywhere in the United States.

A Kirpan Education Bill

The proposed law would require training about the kirpan for every law enforcement officer who has the ability to make an arrest in California. The bill states explicitly, "It is the Legislature's goal to promote education and awareness of the carrying of the kirpan by Sikhs in California." The training would advise officers about "how to recognize and interact with persons carrying a kirpan."

A History of Needless Arrests

The legislation arose out of the increasing number of Sikhs being arrested for carrying their kirpans. Because Sikhs carry kirpans required by the Rehat Maryada (Sikh Code of Conduct), they can be arrested and charged with violating state or local concealed weapons laws. Such arrests violate Sikhs' rights and are a waste of taxpayers' money.

In the past seven years, the Sikh Coalition has successfully resolved over 20 criminal cases involving the carrying of a kirpan. Each time, prosecutors have either agreed not to bring charges or a judge has dismissed the case because they recognized the religious significance of the kirpan. 

"The Sikh community, who are a vibrant, peaceful, and law abiding part of our state, should not live in fear of arrest by law enforcement for carrying the kirpan, which is an integral part of their religious faith," said Assembly Member Furutani. "I am pleased to be working with the Sikh Coalition and the law enforcement community to develop a meaningful piece of legislation."

The Sikh Coalition would like to thank Assembly Member Furutani for his leadership in introducing this legislation, and for his commitment to California's Sikhs. The Sikh Coalition would also like to thank Nitasha Kaur Sawhney, the Coalition's local partner in California, for bringing this issue to the Assembly Member's attention.  Nitasha has played a central role in the introduction of this historic bill.

Over the coming months, the Coalition will work with California's Sikh community to ensure their local members of the State Assembly support this bill. If you live in California and would like information on how you can persuade your local legislators to support this bill, please contact us at legislative@sikhcoalition.org.

The Sikh Coalition urges all Sikhs to practice their faith fearlessly. If someone tells you to remove your articles of faith, please report the incident.

The Sikh Coalition Has Successfully Defended the Right of Over 20 Sikhs to Carry the Kirpan

New York City v. Makhan Singh
November 8, 2001 - The Queens District Attorney's office decides to drop weapons possession charges against Makhan Singh for wearing a one foot long kirpan openly over his clothing in

Knox County v. Charanjit Singh Dhadwal
December 6, 2001 - The Knox County Prosecutor's office drops weapons possession charges against Charanjit Singh for carrying a kirpan on his person while he was driving his truck through Tennessee.

City of New York v. Harjit Singh and Lal Singh Jassal
January 2002 - A judge in criminal court in Manhattan dismissed criminal charges against Harjit Singh and Lal Singh for wearing a kirpan after learning that the kirpan is a religious article of faith.

Menomee Falls v. Hargian Singh
August 29, 2002 - Hargian Singh was given a citation for wearing a kirpan in
Menomee Falls, Wisconsin. At trial the judge dismissed the charges and apologized to Hargian Singh after learning that the kirpan is a religious article of faith.

New York City v. Joginder Singh
October 31, 2002 - A judge in criminal court in
Manhattan dismissed criminal charges against Joginder Singh for wearing a kirpan after learning that the kirpan is a religious article of faith.

Capital Federal Bank
February 11, 2004 - A bank in
Overland Park, Kansas allows a Sikh teller to carry her kirpan in the workplace after initially barring her from working there with her kirpan.

Scagville v. Avtar Singh and Hardeep Singh
February 19, 2003 - Police in
Scagville, Maryland release Avtar Singh and Hardeep Singh who they had detained for one hour after they received a faxed letter from the Sikh Coalition explaining that their kirpan are protected religious articles.

New York v. Kashmir Singh
April 13, 2004 - A prosecutor in
Manhattan drops criminal charges against a Sikh cab driver for carrying the kirpan.

State of Montana v. Sarjeet Singh and Gurnam Singh
April 20, 2004 - A prosecutor in Big Horn County, Montana drops a kirpan prosecution against two Sikh truckers for carrying kirpans on their persons while driving through Montana.

Ohio v. Anoop Kaur Ahluwalia
May 12, 2004 - Weapon possession charge dropped against a Sikh woman who entered an airport wearing her kirpan.

City of Bellevue v. Gagandeep Singh
September 17, 2004 - criminal charges dropped for carry the kirpan by local prosecutors in

State of Washington, County of Kittitas v. Gajjan Singh Bal
July 28, 2004 - criminal charges against a Sikh trucker are dropped for carrying his kirpan while working by local prosecutors in
Kittitas County,

State of California v. Kamaldeep Singh
August 4, 2004 -  criminal charges against a Sikh student for carrying the kirpan while studying in the cafeteria are dropped by local prosecutors.

State of Michigan v. Bhagwant Singh
August 16, 2004 -  criminal charges against a Sikh for carrying his kirpan while waiting for his father in his car outside an airport are dropped by local prosecutors in Wayne County, Michigan.

Oregon vs. Gurpal Singh
October 1, 2004 - Prosecutors in
Roseberg, Oregon decline to file criminal charges against Gurpal Singh (Gill), a Sikh truck driver who was issued a criminal citation for carrying his kirpan, after the Sikh Coalition intervenes.

City of Los Angeles v. Baldev Singh
November 18,  2004 - Prosecutors in
Los Angeles drop criminal charges against a Sikh for carrying his kirpan after the Coalition intervenes/

October 24, 2007 - An AT&T in
Brecksville, Ohio reverses a ban on the kirpan in the workplace after the Sikh Coalition intervenes on behalf of a Sikh who was working there on a H1-B visa.
December 27, 2007 - The IMF allows a Sikh contractor to carrying his kirpan in its
Washington, DC headquarters after the Coalition intervenes.

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