The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) wants the state of Mississippi to investigate a judge who made a Sikh defendant wait for hours because the man refused to remove what the judge called “that rag” from his head in the courtroom.
The ACLU also wants the Mississippi Department of Transportation to look into why police officers, who pulled over truck driver Jageet Sing in January, humiliated the man, calling him a “terrorist” and “depraved” before arresting him for refusing to obey an officer’s command.
The officers had demanded that Singh (pictured), a religiously observant adherent of the Sikh faith, remove a religious ornament he wore. That accessory was a kirpan, a small sword worn on the waistband as a religious symbol, much as a Christian might wear a crucifix as a necklace.
Because it is a religious symbol, not a weapon, Sikhs have a legal right to wear the kirpan.
“When Mr. Singh explained that he was a Sikh and that the kirpan was a sacred religious article, the officers laughed at him and mocked his religious beliefs,” the ACLU said in a press release.
The cops pulled Singh’s truck over because it had a flat tire. He was not suspected of any crime.
But Singh’s troubles were not over. He then had to appear in Pike County Justice Court.
“I was in Mississippi, a place far away from my home in California, when the two unfortunate incidents happened,” Sikh told Amrit Bani TV. “First my arrest for wearing a Kirpan, and later, the shocking incident where I was escorted out of the courtroom by several Highway Patrolmen and asked to remove my turban because the judge didn’t like it.”
The Magnolia, Miss., judge was Aubrey Rimes, who ignored Singh’s explanation of the religious significance of his turban and ordered him ejected from the courtroom.
To religious Sikhs, removing the turban is considered a disgrace before God.
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But when Singh’s lawyer approached the judge, Rimes told him that unless Singh took “that rag” off of his head, he would make them both wait several hours, until the last case of the day.
When Singh refused again — respectfully, according to the ACLU — that is exactly what happened.
The Pikes County Board of Supervisors, following the incident, revised its discrimination policies to prohibit the force removal of religious headgear.