Judge to Sikh Man: Remove "That Rag"

Today, in a letter to the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT), the ACLU and United Sikhs called on state officials to investigate the harassment of a Sikh commercial truck driver pulled over early this year for a flat tire.  After detaining Mr. Jagjeet Singh in January as he passed through Mississippi, the officers called him a "terrorist" and harassed and humiliated him because of his appearance and religious beliefs.  As a devout Sikh, Mr. Singh wears a turban and carries a kirpan.  A kirpan is a small, spiritual sword that is sheathed and sewn to the waistband. It is designed and worn as an article of faith, much as a cross is worn by devout Christians.

Contending, wrongly, that his kirpan was illegal, the officers demanded that Mr. Singh remove it. 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. One officer declared that all Sikhs are "depraved" and "terrorists." They continued to taunt him, and forced Mr. Singh to circle his truck with his hands on his turban while they searched the vehicle. Finally, not content with this humiliation, they arrested him, claiming that Mr. Singh had refused to obey an officer's lawful command.

Mr. Singh's ordeal did not end with the MDOT. When he returned to Mississippi on March 26, 2013, for his court date at the Pike County Justice Court, he once again suffered humiliation, harassment, and discrimination because of his religious beliefs. Waiting for his attorney in the back of the courtroom, he was stunned when four Highway Patrol officers approached him and ordered him to leave the courtroom. The officers stated that Judge Aubrey Rimes had ordered them to eject Mr. Singh from the courtroom because he did not like Mr. Singh's turban. Moreover, they told Mr. Singh that Judge Rimes would punish him if he failed to remove his headdress.

When Mr. Singh's attorney went to Judge Rimes's chambers to inquire about the matter, he readily confirmed that he had expelled Mr. Singh from the courtroom because of his turban. He further stated that Mr. Singh would not be allowed to re-enter the courtroom unless he removed "that rag" from his head and threatened to call Mr. Singh last on the docket if he continued to wear the religious headdress.

As an observant Sikh, Mr. Singh wears a turban at all times as a reminder and public declaration of his connection to God. For him, the turban is an inseparable part of his Sikh religious identity: Like all Sikhs, Mr. Singh believes that a man cannot be considered a Sikh if he does not wear the turban and that unwrapping his turban and exposing his "naked" head in public is sacrilegious and shameful.

Mr. Singh respectfully declined to remove his turban. As threatened, Judge Rimes forced Mr. Singh and his attorney to wait for several hours until every other litigant had been heard before allowing him into the courtroom.

The Pike County Board of Supervisors recently recognized that Judge Rimes's harassment of Mr. Singh was unacceptable. In response to an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the Board revised the County's harassment and non-discrimination policy to explain that religious discrimination includes "requiring an individual to remove a head covering or denying that individual access to a County office, building, program or activity because they are wearing a head covering, if that head covering is worn for religious reasons."

But Judge Rimes should not have needed a DOJ investigation or county policy to know that his conduct was impertinent and inappropriate. Our justice system is founded on the principle that every person entering a courthouse is equal before the law and is entitled to respect. Judge Rimes's treatment of Mr. Singh – in particular his use of the slur "rag" and his effort to intimidate and embarrass Mr. Singh because of his minority faith – flouted his responsibility under the Mississippi Judicial Code of Conduct to uphold the dignity of the judiciary.

The ACLU and United Sikhs also plan to file a complaint with the Mississippi Judicial Commission, asking officials to investigate Judge Rimes's conduct and impose appropriate sanctions.

The letter sent today to MDOT officials demands that they provide public documents relating to Mr. Singh's detainment and arrest and urges them to implement an ongoing training program to educate officers about their responsibility to treat every person with dignity and to remain respectful of religious diversity.

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isvinder s grewal

this fuckers are just ignorant asshole from south.
USA is full of grt people, I live in LA and its grt.
God bless America and fuck this asshole.
hahahahahaah

Anonymous

Judge Rimes should be sacked for violating this Sikh man's constitutional rights; he needs to be taught a lesson.

Anonymous

Vbb

Anonymous

Cant believe you need to write a letter to investigate this.

Anonymous

Unbelievable

Desi Gal

So happy someone took action against such bigotry! Go ACLU!

Vikram Singh

Wow. So sad and disturbing that even our law officials can be so bigoted and ignorant.

Anonymous

I usually do not take the time to post comments on articles like this, but it fucking infuriated me how amazingly shitty people in this country are..

Anonymous

This case is an excellent example of the fact that most Americans are totally ignorant about the cultures and faiths of other minority communities in this great nation of diversity and super democracy. However, knowing that even a court judge in the USA also can be so uneducated, vulgar, biased and discriminatory is beyond my comprehension. Like any other citizen, he must also be corrected under the law, in order to maintain our nation's unparallel equality for all. I am hoping, the DOJ will appropriately handle this case and seek the involved police officers' and judge's due apologies to the Sikh gentleman who remained steadfast to his inner beliefs in this great nation. I certainly admire him and his attorney who also was bold enough to face this cruel judge and reveal facts of a true story. May the Almighty God bless all of us with the spirit of 'self respect' and 'respect to all others,' irrespective of the common factors experienced almost daily in this most prosperous country in the world.

Sincerely,
Paul
+++++++++++

Anonymous

It's such an ignorant world that we live in. At least police officers and government officials should have respect for every individual regardless of race, religion and so forth. The fact that Police Officers and Judges are discriminating, then how is society supposed to be in place? The Police Officers and Judge Rimes should be FIRED!!!

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