Georgia Court Apologizes for Denying Sikh American Man Entrance to Court Incident forces county to implement new policies permitting religious head coverings Washington, DC – The Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) thanks Judge Helen Harper of Laurens County, Georgia, for offering an apology to Tarun Singh Kataria, a Sikh American male, who was denied entry to the court due to its “no hats” policy. Additionally, the court instituted a formal written change to its security policy regarding religious head coverings which explicitly mentions Sikh Americans. SALDEF intervened in the case on behalf of Mr. Kataria when in August 2005 he arrived at the Lauren’s CountyProbate Court to contest a traffic violation, and was asked by the court security to remove his turban due to the court’s “no-hat” policy. Mr. Kataria refused to remove his religiously mandated turban and was prevented from entering the court building, and thus denied his constitutional right to defend himself in a court of law. Mr. Kataria contacted SALDEF seeking redress for this issue. SALDEF immediately contacted the county attorney and judge demanding a letter of apology, clarification of their policy on religious head coverings, and asking that the court allow Mr. Kataria the ability to contest the ticket. In her letter to SALDEF and Mr. Kataria, Judge Harper stated, “The Court’s “No-Hat’s” policy is not, and never has been, intended to deny anyone their constitutional rights, or to discriminate against any religious beliefs. I sincerely regret any embarrassment or inconvenience you may have experienced.” In working with both Judge Harper and County Attorney Billy Kight, SALDEF was able to receive a formal letter of apology from the court and get a full refund of the traffic violation for Mr. Kataria. SALDEF applauds the court for adoption of new protocols for dealing with individuals who wear mandatory religious head-coverings. "I am glad that I contacted SALDEF and can't thank them enough for their persistence and aggressive pursuit of my case,” said Mr. Kataria. “SALDEF’s involvement was vital in resolving my case with such a positive outcome. SALDEF's long history of dedicated and committed work is a great service to the Sikh American community." "This outcome is a tremendous step in making sure that people of faith are not discriminated against and allowed all the rights and liberties guaranteed to them,” said SALDEF President Mirin Kaur Phool. “The changing of the court policy will not only affect Sikh Americans but also Muslim men with skullcaps, Muslim women wearing hijab, Jewish men with yarmulkes, Christian women with religious head coverings, and all other people who wear mandatory religious attire.” Such issues of religious liberty continue to occur across the United States. In fact, SALDEF has assisted Sikhs in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and WashingtonState who have been denied entrance into restaurants and businesses over the last year. We urge Sikhs across the country to contact SALDEF if you experience any incidents where you have been denied entrance into an establishment, private or public, due to your faith, or if you have in any way been prohibited from practicing your faith freely. To help the community better respond to an incident, SALDEF has developed the Know What To Do Guide; a handy pocket guide that details the steps that should be taken in the event of a hate crime, discrimination in the workplace, or racial profiling, and states your rights as an airline passenger. You can download Know What To Do Guide here. Please print and distribute the pocket guide at your local Gurdwara, as well as to your local community, family and friends. To order the pocket guides from SALDEF, please send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.