Co-blogged with Sundari Kaur of The Langar Hall
Last week, in the context of the significance of California’s 9th Congressional District to Sikh Americans, we sent the major candidates of California’s 9th Congressional District — incumbent Representative Jerry McNerney and challenger Ricky Gill — a questionnaire to learn more about their positions about Sikh American-related issues (see previous post here). Both candidates responded. However, the nature of the responses received were quite different.
Rep. Jerry McNerney’s campaign responded to the questionnaire and Ricky Gill’s campaign declined to answer. As we had stated in our earlier post, both responses will be printed verbatim and are below.
Response from Ricky Gill’s campaign:
Dear Ms. Kaur and Mr. Singh —
Thank you for your interest in Ricky’s campaign. Ricky is proud of his Sikh heritage and faith, and equally proud of Sikh Americans’ many contributions to this country. Ricky and his family have long been involved in and supportive of the local Sikh American community, which recently celebrated a historic 100-year anniversary.
Having said that, we respectfully decline to respond to your questionnaire. Even a brief review of your writings clearly indicates that, despite never having met or spoken with Ricky, you already have decided to oppose his candidacy. That is your prerogative, just as it is our prerogative respectfully to decline your request.
Our focus has been and will remain to ensure that residents of the 9th District, including the Sikh American community, know where Ricky stands. We trust that those who do will stand with him.
Thank you again for your interest, and best regards from Stockton.
Ricky Gill for Congress
It is noteworthy that his campaign has expressed pride in Gill’s Sikh background as this has not always been the case during his campaign. Moreover, while we have provided the opportunity for the Gill campaign to shed light on what his positions are on issues important to his some of constituents, we find disappointing that a congressional candidate would decline to answer simple questions on his positions on current issues (particularly basing the objection on the notion of partisanship). If his campaign feels that Gill’s candidacy has been opposed by our websites, they certainly did not provide any reason why it should be supported as far as Sikh American issues are concerned.
Below, we provide Rep. McNerney’s responses to the questionnaire and thank him for his time and willingness to engage with the Sikh American community.
Instructions: Please answer the following four questions and their subparts. Feel free to answer in any way that you wish for as long or short as you choose.
1. Sikh Americans report enduring profiling at airports around the United States by law enforcement.
a. Do you support the proposed federal End Racial Profiling Act?
JM: Every American citizen deserves to be treated equally. To target the Sikhs or any other specific group through profiling is unethical and undermines the very principles our country is founded on. Every person must be treated with dignity and respect, and afforded the rights they are promised in the United States of America.
1b. Do you support adding a prohibition on profiling on the basis of religion to the United States Justice Department’s 2003 Guidance on Racial Profiling?
JM: I absolutely support such a prohibition. Our Constitution promises us the Freedom of Religion, and furthermore, any citizen – in fact, any person in the world – deserves to live a life free of fear due to their religious beliefs. To persecute someone, or even profile a person based on their religion, is unacceptable.
I also voted in favor of an amendment that prohibited federal funds from going to law enforcement organizations that engage in any form of racial, ethnic, or religious profiling. Our local first responders should be making every effort to prevent these types of discrimination from occurring.
Acts such as racial and religious profiling are also part of the reason I sent a letter to the Attorney General and cosponsored a resolution denouncing hate crimes based on race or religion. Hate speech can be perpetuated by a society that sanctions racial and religious profiling.
2. School bullying acutely affects Sikh American school children. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights reports that up to 3/4s of Sikh school children experience bullying and harassment in schools. Do you support the proposed federal Safe Schools Improvement Act?
JM: I am a proud cosponsor of H.R. 1648, the Safe Schools Improvement Act. To allow bullying to continue in our schools is unacceptable. In my community, here in Stockton, we know how vital it is to bolster our public schools and provide a safe and flourishing environment for our children. My own three children benefited from the California public education system, and I know all too well the heartache that comes with being a parent and worrying about your children’s safety. Any steps we can take to end bullying and provide a positive atmosphere for our children to learn in is something I will not only support, but fight for.
3. In the United States, Sikh Americans are officially barred from service in the US military unless they remove religiously-mandated turban and cut religiously-mandated hair. Over the past three years the United States Army made one-time, individual exemptions for three Sikh soldiers so that they could maintain their religious-mandated turbans and hair. Similarly, the Washington DC Police Department made a change in policy to allow any Sikh police officer to serve with his or her turban and uncut hair.
a. Do you support a change in United States military policy so that any Sikh would be able to serve without having to remove their religiously-mandated turbans and unshorn hair?
JM: My own son, Mike, volunteered for the armed services after 9/11. In fact, he is the person who inspired me to run for office.
As a proud father of a veteran, I honor the willingness of any American citizen to serve our country, sacrificing to protect our way of life. I cannot impugn that willingness, nor do I think that this great country should limit the ways American citizens want to serve. I support policies that allow Sikhs to serve in our military without having to remove their religiously-mandated turbans and unshorn hair. An individual’s commitment to serving our country should not be diminished based on appearances that display their religious beliefs.
b. Would you encourage law enforcement agencies in your Congressional district allowing Sikhs to serve as police officers without removing their religiously-mandated turbans and unshorn hair?
JM: Those who are willing to serve our community in such a noble profession should be afforded an equal chance to progress through the system and compete for jobs. I support allowing Sikhs to serve as police officers while maintaining their religiously-mandated turbans and unshorn hair. Here in my town of Stockton, where the crime rate is far too high, we need more boots on the ground, and we should not prevent qualified and dedicated people from being a part of our community.
4. Hate crimes, exemplified by the recent massacre in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, where a white supremacist entered a Sikh house of worship and murdered six Sikh worships, acutely affects the Sikh community. The Federal Bureau of Investigation however does not presently track hate crimes against Sikhs.
a. Do you believe the Federal Bureau of Investigation should track hate crime against Sikhs?
JM: All hate crimes should be investigated thoroughly by the appropriate law enforcement agencies, and the perpetrators of such acts should unequivocally be brought to justice. Whether that be through federal or local law enforcement, we need to create an environment where all people – especially the Sikh community which has contributed so much to the fabric of our national history – are safe and free from such persecution. The FBI should track hate crimes against Sikhs.
[Cross-posted on The Langar Hall]