In late July, at a theme park in Livermore, California (called Boomer’s Parks), several Sikh boys wearing patkas (a version of a turban for young Sikh boys) were not permitted to ride on go-karts because the owners of the attraction, Palace Entertainment, have a strict policy prohibiting loose hair or any kind of head-covering:
“We’ve had a safety policy in place for quite some time at all our parks that prohibits hats, baseball caps, Yarmulkes,” [Palace Entertainment spokesperson Michele Wischmeyer] said. “It has nothing to do with a discrimination policy and everything to do with a safety policy.”
The park has also refused admittance to a Muslim girl wearing a hijab.
The rationale expressed by Palace Entertainment is coincidentally similar to that of AMC Theatres, who (in early July) also invoked security concerns to justify the actions of its security guards in Emeryville, California, when they isolated Sikh patrons and removed them from a theater after investigating whether the Sikh patrons had a kirpan — a sword that is also a religious article of faith for initiated Sikhs.
In both cases, the intent behind the security/safety policies may not have been one of discrimination. However, when members of certain faith groups are excluded from participating in an activity unless they compromise their religious practice or beliefs, the net result is discriminatory, and a limitation on the ability of members of these faiths to freely practice their religions. In the case of the Sikh boys in Livermore, to remove their patkas would have been a violation of their religious beliefs (not to forget the fact that most Sikh patkas are tied very securely on the head — one of the benefits of this head-covering for Sikh boys is how securely it holds the boy’s hair).
The debate that arises from such situations is of finding a balance between equitable treatment of the public versus safety and security concerns. What is clear, however, is that the company did not seek any kind of dialogue with its Sikh customers to determine a safe accommodation of Sikh beliefs, and that is rather unfortunate. Undoubtedly, a solution could be found that would have avoided telling customers to go elsewhere.
Read more at the Contra Costa Times.