Dept of Homeland Security and IRS violate religious liberty of Sikh woman

Kawal Tagore reported to work for the IRS at the Leland Federal Building in Houston, Texas, in April of 2005.  She had recently been baptized into the Sikh faith, and had begun to carry a kirpan, required as an article of faith.  The kirpan is a blunt, short object, which resembles a knife–less dangerous than the pair of scissors in most office workers’ desks.  The Federal Protective Service, part of the DHS, ruled that Ms. Tagore could not carry the kirpan into the Federal Building.  She refused to remove the kirpan and was fired by the IRS.

Ms. Tagore is represented by the Becket Fund in her fight for religious liberty.  The case is being heard now by the Fifth Court of Appeals in New Orleans.  

Probably as the result of this case, the Federal Protective Service has changed their regulations and issued a new policy–within the past months.  The new policy does not automatically ban religious items such as the kirpan, and allows people to bring or wear religious items that pose no security threat into federal buildings.  

Here is the section from attachment 2 of that new policy:

Considerations when Presented with Articles of the Sikh Faith

 

Show respect to all variations of the articles of the Sikh faith during inspections. 

 

A Kara that cannot be removed may be searched while on the person and/or may be scanned with a handheld metal detector.

 

A Kirpan may qualify as a “dangerous weapon” under 18 U.S.C. § 930, which generally prohibits knives with blades 2.5 inches or longer, unless otherwise authorized. Before such a Kirpan may be carried into a Federal facility, an exception or exemption to the prohibited items policy would be necessary; procedures are described in FPS Directive 15.9.3.1.

 

A Kirpan with a blade of less than 2.5 inches may be permitted in a Federal facility without an exception or exemption, unless it is used as a dangerous weapon.

 Hopefully, the 5th Circuit will decide this case in favor of religious liberty.

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