Monthly Digest: July 8, 2010

Coalition Launches 2nd Sikh Presenter's Course in New York

The Sikh Presenter's Course (Video) is a 3 day series of workshops designed to train Sikh community members on how to deliver Sikh Awareness Presentations. The Course workshops were led by Fred Polirer, an experienced facilitator in the field of public speaking, the Coalition's Education Director, and Director of Programs. The first Course was held in February of this year, and targeted Sikhs in the tri-state area. Due to the overwhelming response we received from the first Course, the Coalition decided to host another Course for Sikhs in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. 15 Sikhs were successfully trained from the 1st Course and 12 Sikhs were trained for the 2nd Course.

The Coalition has conducted countless presentations at schools, agencies, and interfaith panels. the need for these trainings is growing every year. For this reason, the Coalition created the Course in order to target a particular geographic region and train Sikh community members in that area on how to deliver Sikh Awareness presentations. If you would like to sponsor a Sikh Presenter's Course in your area, please send an email to education@sikhcoalition.org

Case Update: Coalition Aggressively Litigating Federal Kirpan Case

The Sikh Coalition continues to aggressively litigate a kirpan case against the federal government on behalf of Kawaljeet K. Tagore, who was fired from her job with the IRS after she took amrit and began wearing a kirpan.In the last two months, the legal team has taken seven depositions, defended the client's deposition, and filed and responded to dozens of requests for information from the defendants. The Coalition thanks Houston-based civil rights attorney Scott Newar and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty for their partnership on this case.

Case Update: Issues Decision that New Jersey Employer Must Accommodate Sikh Beards and Long Hair

On June 24, 2010, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued an updated decision that Sikh job applicant Gurpreet S. Kherha suffered discrimination by Tri-County Lexus, a dealership in New Jersey. After thoroughly investigating the case, the EEOC held that "undisputed" and "credible" evidence supports their finding that the Lexus dealership violated federal law by refusing to hire the qualified Sikh applicant after he refused to shave his beard. The EEOC found that the dealership's grooming policy violates the law because it prevents employees from wearing beards and from men having hair longer than "collar length" without providing any accommodations for religious reasons. This decision will help protect other Sikh employees from being discriminated against because of similar grooming and dress code restrictions. The Sikh Coalition and attorney Ravinder S. Bhalla have been representing Mr. Kherha for over two years and filed a lawsuit in New Jersey state court. The Coalition looks forward to working with the EEOC to attempt to resolve this matter.

Coalition Receives Award from North American South Asian Bar Association (NASABA)

Coalition Receives Award from North American South Asian Bar Association (NASABA)The Sikh Coalition received the 2010 Public Service Achievement Award from the North American South Asian Bar Association (NASABA) during its annual convention in Boston, from June 25 to June 27. NASABA is the largest and oldest South Asian Bar Association in the United States. This year marks the second year in a row that the Coalition has been honored by NASABA. Last year, Coalition Program Director, Amardeep Singh, received NASABA's Public Interest Achievement Award. The Coalition thanks NASABA for its leadership and partnership.

Coalition Files Amicus Brief to Protect Religious Land Use

The Sikh Coalition filed an amicus curiae brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on May 14, 2010. The case concerned a zoning regulation that would significantly narrow the protective scope of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). The federal trial court interpreted the regulation in a way that resulted in inherent disfavoring of religious uses, and would have allowed covert manipulation of zoning codes to exclude religious institutions. The trial court's decision would have a negative impact on Sikhs' right to practice their religion by limiting their ability to build gurdwaras. The Coalition thanks the law firm of Sidley Austin LLP for representing us on the brief, and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty for their work in this matter.

Sikh Coalition Welcomes Summer Interns

The Sikh Coalition welcomes its summer interns and looks forward to working with a group of energetic and talented students. This summer, there are a record-number of interns working for the Coalition. In New York, Kirandeep Kaur will be working in the Advocacy Program Area alongside fellow students, Namisha Kaur and Paramveer Singh who will be lobbying on Capitol Hill in Washington DC. Sally Hartman, a second year law student, has joined the legal team as a New York law clerk. Anoopdep Singh and Navjot Kaur will be working on the education agenda in New York. Daljit Kaur will be working with the Community Organizer in Queens, New York

The internship program allows students pursuing undergraduate or graduate studies to gain hands-on experience in promoting the civil and human rights of all individuals. For more information about our internship program, please click here.

Coalition Participates in Homeland Security Meeting on Complaint Process

The Sikh Coalition provided ideas to the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on how to improve its process for receiving and acting on complaints from the general public this past month. The Coalition has filed dozens of complaints on behalf of Sikh air travelers with DHS over the years. These complaints are often take more than a year to resolve and are vague with regard to the action taken to address the concern raised by the complaint. It is hoped that DHS over the coming months will institute new procedures to ensure complaints are addressed expeditiously and provide transparency on actions taken to address civil rights concerns.

Coalition Engages With Top School Leadership in Elizabeth, NJ

The Coalition's Education Director and Education Intern attended a meeting this month with Sikh community members, principals, and counselors from Elizabeth school district in New Jersey. The objective of the meeting was to determine how to create a working relationship with Elizabeth school officials in order to better educate both students and administrators on Sikhs. New Jersey implemented Sikhi in the state curriculum for the first time last September, and this change takes effect in the 2011-2012 school year. One of the meeting objectives was to coordinate presentations for teachers on Sikhi so that they would, in turn, be able to deliver that information to their classes. The meeting provided a way for the Coalition and school administrators to collaborate on educational opportunities for the future.

Asian American/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy Invites Coalition to Speak

On June 23, Asian American/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP) organized a community reception and private viewing of the exhibit The Art of Gaman Arts and Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps, 1942-1946. The exhibition and reception were hosted by the Renwick Gallery/Smithsonian American Art Museum. The Coalition's Program Director, Amardeep Singh, addressed an engaged and active crowd of more than 200 on the role of philanthropy and government in times of crisis.

 

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