(Sacramento, CA) April 2, 2009 - A unanimous vote on Tuesday brings a proposed Kirpan Education Bill one step closer to mandating training for California law enforcement officers. It will now move on to the next step of the legislative process before becoming a law. This good news comes just days before we celebrate the 310th anniversary of Vaisakhi - the day the Sikh community was given our identity, Tuesday's vote marks a significant step towards creating an environment where Sikhs can practice our faith with respect and dignity in California.
A Kirpan Education Bill
The proposed law
(AB 504), just passed by the California Assembly's Public Safety Committee, 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."
For this bill to become law, it must first be approved by a number of committees. It's debut was before the Assembly Committee on Public Safety, where seven Assembly Members assessed whether this training was necessary. Many of the committee members spoke in glowing support of their Sikh constituents, including Assembly Member Warren Furutani (D-Long Beach), Assembly Member Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco), Assembly Member Nancy Skinner (D-El Sobrante), and Assembly Member Danny D. Gilmore (R-Bakersfield).
California sangat members in front of the State Capitol after Tuesday's hearing
California's Sikhs Speak Out
The California Sikh community provided a tremendous amount of support for this bill. Nearly 300 people sent letters to each Assembly Member on the Committee. In addition, 17 community members of all ages and from all over California came to the meeting to make public comments. We also received dozens of letters of support from Sikh and non-Sikh organizations. This bill could not have passed this first hurdle without thechardi kala (eternal optimism) of our California community. Together, we have planted the seeds for the momentum we need to carry this bill through the California legislative process.
The bill will now be heard and voted on in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. If passed, it will then move on for a vote by the entire California Assembly. If the majority of the Assembly passes the bill, it will need to go through the same process on the Senate side before becoming a law.
Over the coming months, the Coalition will work with California's Sikh community to ensure their local members of the State Assembly and Senate 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Note of Thanks
The Sikh Coalition would like to thank Assembly Member Furutani for his leadership in introducing this legislation. We are also very grateful by the commitment shown by Assembly Members Ma and Skinner, who have signed on as co-authors of the legislation. The Sikh Coalition would also like to thank Nitasha Kaur Sawhney, the Coalition's local partner in California.
The following organizations all wrote letters of support for AB 504, which were crucial to Tuesday's victory: The South Asian Bar Association of Northern California, CAIR-California, Asian Americans for Civil Rights & Equality, the International Institute Of Gurmat Studies, Sikh Temple Of Sacramento, UC Berkeley Sikh Students Association, Fremont Gurdwara Sahib, Sikh Temple Of Bakersfield, California Sikh Council, Sikh Research Institute, The Sikh Foundation International, CSU Bakersfield's Department of Sociology/Anthropology, and Jakara Movement.
As always, 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.