SALDEF works with local civic officials to resolve issue and organize training for local police and security officials
Earlier this month, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF)... received a formal apology from the City of Lawrenceville, Georgia, for wrongfully denying Mr. Jasmeen Singh Nanda entry to the city courthouse.
Late last Fall, Mr. Nanda arrived at the Lawrenceville Municipal Court to contest a minor traffic violation he received. After Mr. Nanda successfully passed through the security screening, two Lawrenceville police officers informed Mr. Nanda that, “[w]hatever you have on your head, you need to remove it immediately.” Mr. Nanda explained that he was not wearing a hat, but rather a religious head covering called a turban.
After trying to explain the significance of the Sikh turban, Mr. Nanda was accosted (assaulted) by one of the officers who disrespectfully touched and squeezed his turban several times while asking him, "[w]hat is that on top of your head?” Mr. Nanda was threatened with arrest and told that he would, “need to show me your hair before you enter the court room or get out of here and get out of my face and stop wasting our time.” Mr. Nanda at this point left the court house and immediately informed SALDEF of the incident.
SALDEF asked the City of Lawrenceville to revise its current court room policy relating to religious garb and to allow SALDEF to conduct a cultural awareness presentation for the court personnel. SALDEF presented a model security screening procedure and protocol that is respectful of not only the Sikh turban, but an individual wearing a religious head covering.
Subsequent to the communication and discussion with SALDEF on court room policy relating to religious garb currently being implemented in Lawrenceville, city officials agreed to formally change their policy and to have SALDEF conduct a cultural awareness presentation for the officers and court room personnel in the Spring. The formal change in policy states, “[I]f the headwear is donned in observance of a religious tenet, the Court Services officers will not ask the person to remove the headwear.” [SALDEF Press Release]
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