YUBA CITY, California, USA—A Sikh says he is being prevented from carrying out jury service because a California court has refused to allow him to carry a 6 inch dagger. Gursant Singh is due to appear for jury duty on April 29 but because Sutter County Court bans weapons he will not be allowed to bring his ‘kirpan’ – a small knife that Sikhs must carry at all times. The rule means Singh must choose between going against his religion, or breaking the law, which could lead to him being fined, or imprisoned.
- Gursant Singh, who converted to Sikh religion 30 years ago, is campaigning to change court rules.
- 6in blade is one of five articles of faith Sikhs must carry at all times.
- Singh says he is being forced to choose between his beliefs and his responsibility as an American.
In previous cases when Sikhs have attended the court house, they left their kirpan with security guards, but Singh said he would rather be arrested than compromise his beliefs.
The kirpan is one of five articles of faith that Sikhs carry with them at all times. It symbolizes courage, and self-sacrifice, and must never be used to attack anyone.
I feel very strongly that as a citizen of the United States that I should be able to serve as a juror,” Singh told CBC Sacramento.”[But] they’ve put me in a position. Either I violate my code of conduct with my religion, or I break the law.”
Singh, who converted from Christianity to the Sikh religion when he was in his 20s, is campaigning to make the courthouse change its rules. He uploaded a video to YouTube to raise awareness about the conflict between the rules on weapons and the Sikh religion.
Singh, who has followed the religion for more than 30 years, said there were more Sikhs living in Yuba City, and Sutter County, than in any other place in the U.S, and called on the court to be more open to their beliefs.
He said, “It’s obvious the court does not know Sikhs are required to wear a small dagger, or kirpan as we call it, everywhere we go. We need to change this policy and make the courts in California more aware of the Sikh code of conduct.” Singh added, “I want to serve as a jury, it’s my right and responsibility … [but they’ve] left me with an unworkable situation. They won’t excuse me and they won’t allow me to appear.”
The Sikh Coalition has said that other agencies have made exceptions for followers to carry their kirpan, and they expected the court to do the same. On its website, the coalition adds that in certain situations when weapons are prohibited, compromises are made. For instance, when Sikhs fly they place their kirpan in their checked luggage.
Sutter County Jury Commissioner Mary Beth Todd said she was trying to find a solution for Singh, saying, “It’s important that we provide a safe environment for people’s issues to be heard.” She added, “It’s extremely important that we be sensitive to this … and we’re trying to find a solution that will work for both sides.”
Articles of faith in the Sikh religion
Sikhs must carry five articles of faith with them at all times as a reminder of their beliefs:
Kesh – Hair must never be cut, and it is kept wrapped in a turban.
Kanga – A comb is used to brush the hair twice a day and to help keep the turban neat.
Kara – The bracelet is worn on the right wrist and symbolizes restraint from evil deeds.
Kirpan – The small dagger is a symbol of courage and must never be used to attack, although it can be used for protection if other methods of defense have failed.
Kachera – The undershorts remind Sikhs of their devotion to a faithful life.