California Sikhs demonstrated outside the Sutter County Superior Courthouse in Yuba City, California, on Tuesday to protest the exclusion of Gursant Singh from a jury, due to his ceremonial kirpan dagger, which he carries out of a religious obligation, reports CBS 13.
State law prohibits weapons of any kind in the courthouse, and Singh was told that he must not come to jury duty next week with his kirpan, which is a short ceremonial knife carried as one of five articles of faith that observant Sikhs must have at all times.
Singh told CBS, “I feel very strongly that as a citizen of the United States that I should be able to serve as a juror.” He added, “They’ve put me in a position. Either I violate my code of conduct with my religion, or I break the law.”
Sutter County Jury Commissioner Mary Beth Todd is trying to find a compromise.She told CBS, “It’s extremely important that we be sensitive to this, and we’re trying to be sensitive to it, and we’re trying to find a solution that will work for both sides.”
The Sikh Coalition advocacy group told CBS that other agencies and courts have made accommodations for Sikh articles of faith before, and expect the same from Sutter County.
Singh has taken to social media to raise awareness of his plight, as well as other Sikh issues, and says he would rather be arrested than undermine his religious convictions. “I’m willing to do that, if that’s what it takes, in order to bring this issue out,” he said.
Last year, British Columbia declared that it would allow kirpans in courtrooms, a decision that was praised by many members of the Sikh community.
~ Yasmin Hafiz