For Immediate Release
Rajdeep Singh Jolly
Sikhs Demand Civil Rights Apology from Kamala Harris
June 28, 2019 (Washington, DC) – Sikh activists in the United States have launched a petition demanding that Kamala Harris apologize for supporting employment discrimination against a Sikh job applicant during her tenure as California’s attorney general in 2011.
As attorney general, Kamala Harris defended a policy that prohibited state prison guards from keeping beards for religious reasons, even though exceptions were given for medical reasons. The case settled without a policy change in 2011, prompting the U.S. Department of Justice to open a civil rights investigation and forcing California Sikhs to successfully lobby for stronger workplace religious freedom laws in the state the following year.
“Kamala Harris lectures her opponents on civil rights, but she needs to apologize for trampling on the civil rights of Sikh Americans as California’s attorney general,” said Rajdeep Singh Jolly, a lawyer and political consultant in Washington, DC. “While the Obama/Biden administration was taking historic steps to allow observant Sikhs to serve in the U.S. military, Harris was fighting hard to deny religious freedom and equal opportunity to Sikh Americans.”
Observant Sikhs wear turbans and maintain uncut hair and beards in accordance with their religious beliefs. The Sikh religion was founded in South Asia over five centuries ago. There are an estimated 25 million Sikhs worldwide and half a million in the United States, most of whom live in California, the state that Harris has represented in the U.S. Senate since 2017.
“Her civil rights rhetoric will ring hollow until she addresses her defense of workplace discrimination against Sikhs,” said Winty Singh, author of the American Turban blog and commentator on Sikh American issues. “It’s her opportunity now to right that wrong.”