Texas Sikh Woman Wins Kirpan Lawsuit

2013-02-14-Kawaljeet-Kaur-TagoreHOUSTON, Texas—A former Internal Revenue Service worker in Houston has settled a federal lawsuit that alleged she was fired for insisting she be allowed to wear a three-inch Kirpan.

Kawaljeet Tagore began wearing a miniature Kirpan after becoming a member of the Sikh faith in 2005. The Kirpan, required to be worn by initiated Sikhs, represents resistance to oppression and tyranny and defence of truth and righteousness.

Tagore, 41, was terminated from her job in 2006, after federal officials couldn’t reach a compromise with her over safety concerns they had about the Kirpan.

The settlement, announced Thursday in the 2009 lawsuit, removes Tagore’s firing from her record. It also allows Tagore to enter federal buildings with the Kirpan for three years. Tagore can’t seek re-employment with the IRS, but she can look for work with other federal agencies.

“Sikh Americans shouldn’t have to choose between their faith and their jobs,” said Daniel Blomberg, an attorney with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which helped Tagore.

“The government doesn’t get to say that sharp knives are OK if they are brought in to cut birthday cakes, but dull Kirpans aren’t OK because they are religious items,” he said. “The settlement confirms that religious freedom is not a second-class right.”

In the settlement, the Federal Protective Services, which oversees security in federal buildings, agreed to educate its employees about the Kirpan’s significance.

Earlier this year, 12 major American Sikh advocacy groups sent letters to President Barack Obama and then-U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder calling for Tagore’s reinstatement to her IRS job.

Tagore currently works as a self-employed tax consultant.




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