A Sikh woman had an article of her faith taken from her as she entered a federal building–despite having a judge’s permission to bring it to her trial.
Kawal Tagore has sued the Internal Revenue Service, where she used to work as an accountant, and several other departments because she said they prevented her from adhering to the five Articles of Faith that she must hold as a Sikh.
According to the Houston Chronicle, these five articles are:
“Kesh (keeping hair uncut), Kanga (a ceremonial comb), Kara (a metal bracelet to be worn), Kachehra (donning a special type of shorts), and Kirpan (a short dagger to be carried at all times).”
Her lawsuit claims that the IRS fired her after failing to make accommodations for her kirpan. Tagore was told that her three-inch kirpan a half inch too long to be admitted into her federal building. She offered to carry a shorter kirpan, but ultimately lost her job.
“There are hundreds of objects in the Leland Building that are both sharper and longer than Tagore’s kirpan,”according to the suit.
The kirpan, according to The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is “a 3-inch ceremonial blade with an edge that’s duller and shorter than a butter knife.”
According to Sikhs.org, The kirpan is “no more symbolic [as] a weapon than the Christian Cross is symbolic of a torture instrument.”
Tagore sought religious accommodation to bring her kirpan to her trial.A motion was filed and approved by the judge allowing Tagore and all Sikh witnesses in the trial to wear their kirpans in the building.
One of the conditions was that the witnesses arrive early and present their kirpans to security, who would escort them while they were in the building. But when Tagore presented her kirpan as instructed, it was seized.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty described the incident this way: “[A] guard seized the kirpan, physically held down Ms. Tagore’s arm, and repeatedly questioned her about whether she is a “United States citizen” and is willing to “comply with the laws of the United States.”
Tagore is an American citizen.
Daniel Blomberg, counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and one of the attorneys representing Tagore, said that “no one should be forced to choose between their faith and their constitutional right to participate in their own case.”
Sarah Torre, a policy analyst in the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation, said that:
Ms. Tagore’s case underscores the importance of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which provides a commonsense way of balancing the fundamental right to freely exercise one’s religion with compelling government interests. In a society with such a great diversity of religious beliefs, it only makes sense to provide reasonable accommodations for individuals to live out their faith at home, in worship, and also at work. That’s what RFRA helps achieve, including for those of minority faiths.