'I'd rather be arrested than compromise my beliefs': Sikh called for jury service refuses to take off ceremonial dagger to comply with courtroom rules on weapons
A Sikh says he is being prevented from carrying out jury service because a California court has refused to allow him to carry a 6in dagger.
Gursant Singh is due to appear for jury duty on April 29 but because Sutter County Court bans weapons he will not be allowed to bring his 'kirpan' - a small knife that Sikhs must carry at all times.
The rule means Singh must choose between going against his religion or breaking the law, which could lead to him being fined or imprisoned.
In previous cases when Sikhs have attended the court house, they have left their kirpan with security guards, but Singh said he would rather be arrested than compromise his beliefs.
The kirpan is one of five articles of faith that Sikhs carry with them at all times. It symbolizes courage and self-sacrifice, and must never be used to attack anyone.
'I feel very strongly that as a citizen of the United States that I should be able to serve as a juror,' Singh told CBC Sacramento.
'[But] they’ve put me in a position. Either I violate my code of conduct with my religion, or I break the law.'
Singh, who converted from Christianity to the Sikh religion when he was in his 20s, is campaigning to make the courthouse change its rules.
He uploaded a video to YouTube to raise awareness about the conflict between the rules on weapons and the Sikh religion.
Singh, who has followed the religion for more than 30 years, said there were more Sikhs living in Yuba City and Sutter County than in any other place in the U.S, and called on the court to be more open to their beliefs.
He said: 'It's obvious the court does not know Sikhs are required to wear a small dagger, or kirpan as we call it, everywhere we go.
'They won't excuse me and they won't allow me to appear.'
The Sikh Coalition has said that other agencies have made exceptions for followers to carry their kirpan, and they expected the court to do the same.
On its website, the coalition adds that in certain situations when weapons are prohibited, compromises are made. For instance, when Sikhs fly they place their kirpan in their checked luggage.
Sutter County Jury Commissioner Mary Beth Todd said she was trying to find a solution for Singh, saying: 'It's important that we provide a safe environment for people's issues to be heard.'
She added: 'It’s extremely important that we be sensitive to this ... and we’re trying to find a solution that will work for both sides.'
Source: Daily Mail