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This Press Release may be read online at: http://www.unitedsikhs.org/PressReleases/PRSRLS-21-01-2008-00.html

Press Release: 21st Jan 2008,  9th Magh (Samvat 540 Nanakshahi)

ACLU attends Dallas gurdwara to educate Sikh community;

Partnership between UNITED SIKHS and ACLU underway

Dallas, TX: "This is the most fun that I have ever had on the job,” said American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Texas Legal Director Lisa Graybill with a smile as she and her colleagues addressed the congregation of Gurdwara Singh Sabha of North Texas last Sunday with an informational presentation about Sikhs’ rights. This incident marks the first time ACLU executives have ever been inside a gurdwara to address a group of Sikhs directly, and approximately 500 Sikhs were in attendance.

ACLU TX Legal Director Lisa Graybill addressing the sangat (congregation)

The presentation urged Sikhs to know their rights, informing the congregation of their right to wear articles of faith including the turban, kara (steel bangle), and the kirpan. Also discussed was one’s right to remain silent when questioned by police or to ask for a lawyer, immigration issues, as well as children’s rights in schools to not be harassed or coerced by school officials to remove any religious article and the right not to be bullied. Congregants were also made aware of their rights as citizens of Texas in addition to their Constitutional rights, specifically focusing on how one can act in the presence of police and other authorities in order to protect oneself and one’s loved ones from discrimination. Also in attendance was James Canup, ACLU Texas Development Director, who expressed a hope that meeting such as this one will persuade Sikhs to become more active in articulating their issues. “We aspire that many Sikhs will become members and enhance the ACLU and diversify its makeup," he remarked.

From left to right: ACLU TX Development Director James Canup, Gurdwara Committee Member Swarn Singh, ACLU TX Executive Director Terri Burke, ACLU Dallas Chapter Board Member and CAIR DFW Executive Director Mustafa Carroll, Gurdwara Committee Member and Secretary Surinder Singh, ACLU Dallas Chapter Board Member and UNITED SIKHS Director Gurvinder Singh, ACLU TX Legal Director Lisa Graybill, Gurdwara IT Specialist Kuljit Singh, ACLU Texas State Board Member Madan Goyal

In conjunction with this seminar, the ACLU and UNITED SIKHS are moving forward develop a partnership. Terri Burke, Executive Director of the Texas ACLU, commented, “We look forward to working with UNITED SIKHS and the Sikh community. We will assist and conduct workshops whenever asked and look forward to collaborating with UNITED SIKHS in ensuring that the Sikh voice is heard." Specific goals of this consociation include an initiative underway that involves writing a letter on behalf every Sikh family about the rights of their children in schools. This letter would then be given by the families to school administrators when they proceed to enroll their children in school, informing the authorities of Sikh rights, the legal precedents to wear Sikh articles of faith, and how to prevent bullying. Another initiative that is being launched is a placard specifically for truck and taxi drivers to be carried and used in case they are pulled over by police, notifying them of legal precedents and laws that allow a Sikh to carry a kirpan and wear a turban. UNITED SIKHS Director Gurvinder Singh stated, "This is integral for our mission, to partner with the ACLU and tackle issues that affect Sikhs on a daily basis. UNITED SIKHS looks forward to this strategic collaboration and thanks the ACLU for its diligence in protecting and upholding civil liberties of all citizens."

ACLU TX directors partaking in langar (community meal).

Some congregants expressed surprise when their assumptions about the limits of legal authority were unravelled. Gurdwara committee member and secretary Surinder Singh commented, "This is a great step in educating the sangat (congregation) and notifying them of their rights.” UNITED SIKHS has crossed a frontier as being one of the first organisations to approach the ACLU to forge a partnership.

Gurdwara Singh Sabha of North Texas will also soon host a seminar by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on 27 January, 2008.

You may read a previous press release on Sikh awareness projects assisted by UNITED SIKHS at http://www.unitedsikhs.org/PressReleases/PRSRLS-11-01-2008-00.html

Issued By:
Jaspreet K. Singh
Staff Attorney
International Civil and Human Rights Advocacy (ICHRA)

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