Press Release

Media Advisory: Federal Ban on Sikh Religious Attire Goes to Trial Government allows sharp pocket-knives, cake knives in federal buildings, but burdens Sikhs wearing ceremonial blade with an edge shorter and duller than a butter knife

Media Contact

Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

Additional Information

Washington, DC – A federal district court in Texas will hold a trial on Monday, October 20, about whether the federal government can discriminate against a Sikh woman for wearing religiously-required attire—a sheathed ceremonial blade with an edge that’s shorter and duller than a butter knife—in federal buildings. Ms. Kawal Tagore was fired from her accountant position with the IRS, banned from accessing federal buildings, and blackballed from future federal employment simply because her ceremonial kirpan had a 3-inch blade. Yet the federal government freely allows the public to access those same buildings with sharp 2.5-inch blade knives, and lets federal employees use much longer and sharper cake knives inside the buildings. After being fired, Ms. Tagore sought protection under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and has already won a significant victory at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Her efforts also prompted the government to alter its ban, albeit in a way that still discriminates against her for being a faithful Sikh.

What: Trial in Tagore v. Dept. of Homeland Security, Houston, TX

Who: Scott Newar, Newar Law Firm, and
Daniel Blomberg, Becket

When: October 20, 2014 at 1:00 p.m.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division
515 Rusk Avenue, Houston, TX 77002

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include two major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 ruling in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”