Know Your Rights On Kirpan Policy in US
New Federal Kirpan Policy: What YOU Need To Know
The Sikh Coalition Creates “Know Your Rights” Handout About the New Federal Kirpan Policy
The Sikh Coalition has created a “Know Your Rights” document explaining the federal government’s new policy allowing for greater accommodation of Sikh kirpans in most federal buildings. The federal government implemented this policy on December 10, 2012, and made it public in February of 2013. We believe that the new policy was created in response to a lawsuit brought by Kawaljeet Kaur Tagore, a former federal employee who was fired for wearing her kirpan to work.
The policy applies to the 9,000+ federal facilities secured by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Protective Service (FPS). It is a major step forward for the Sikh community with respect to kirpan rights. We believe that this policy will encourage greater accommodation of kirpans across the country throughout both the public and private sectors.
Federal law generally bars the entry of what it considers “weapons” into federal facilities. However, the new FPS policy acknowledges that civil rights laws may mandate the entry of certain seemingly prohibited items – like kirpans – into federal government buildings.
Previously, federal law barred the entry of knives with blade lengths of 2.5 inches or greater – including kirpans – into federal facilities.
Under the new policy:
We recommend that kirpan-wearing Sikhs print out, review, and keep a copy of this “Know Your Rights” document if they plan to visit a federal facility.
Background on the Policy’s Origins
We believe that FPS wrote and implemented the accommodation policy in response to a groundbreaking lawsuit brought by former federal employee Kawaljit Kaur Tagore. After she took amrit and began wearing a kirpan with a blade longer than 2.5 inches (the federal limit), Ms. Tagore was barred from her federal workplace and ultimately fired from her job. Represented at the time by the Sikh Coalition, Ms. Tagore filed a lawsuit in federal court in 2009 against the federal government. Ms. Tagore is currently represented by private counsel and her lawsuit is pending before a federal appellate court. Even though her suit is still pending, the federal government has changed its prohibited items policy to better accommodate Sikhs who carry kirpans.
Whether Sikhs will be granted accommodations to wear their kirpans into federal buildings may differ facility by facility. We ask that Sikhs contact us to report whether they have been allowed to enter federal facilities with their kirpans.
As always, the Sikh Coalition urges all Sikhs to practice their faith fearlessly. If you need help requesting an accommodation to wear your kirpan, please contact the Sikh Coalition.
Download the "Know Your Rights" in English