YUBA CITY, California—On April 29, 2014, Mr. Gursant Singh, a California resident, was denied his right to serve on jury duty at the Sutter County Superior Court, due to his religious articles of faith.
Mr. Singh received a summons for jury duty on April 8, 2014 from the Sutter County Superior Court. A few days later he wrote a letter to the jury commissioner of Sutter County explaining that initiated Sikhs wear a kirpan and requested a religious exemption from the no weapons or knives policy stated in the summons.
The court offered to place the kirpan in a locked box, which the court security would keep secure until Mr. Singh left the courthouse, or to excuse Mr. Singh from jury duty. However, Mr. Singh explained that it was his responsibility, duty, and right as an American to serve as a juror and he is not permitted by his religion to remove the kirpan. To no avail, he explained that the kirpan is one of five articles of faith required to be worn at all times by initiated Sikhs. It is a symbol of peace and dignity and is not to be used, or perceived as a weapon. It remains on the individual at all times, it is safely sheathed by a casing and strapped away safely, inaccessible to others.
The next day, Mr. Singh and members of the Yuba City Sikh community, peacefully protested outside the courthouse at the time of his summons.
UNITED SIKHS took Mr. Singh’s case and issued demand letters to the Court Executive Officer, Ms. Mary Beth Todd and Judge Susan. E. Greene of the court, requesting religious accommodations for initiated Sikhs carrying kirpans into their courthouse. The letters explained the significance of the kirpan to Sikhs and cited numerous examples of other government buildings and successful cases where accommodations for kirpans were granted.
Jury duty is a right granted to citizens of all creeds, with religious views and values which should be embraced and accommodated, to assure no citizen is made to choose between their rights and duties as a citizen, and their faith and beliefs.