USA Jewish Groups Back Sikh's Right To A Beard


1947-2014 (Archived)
The ADL, American Jewish Committee and more than 25 other civil rights groups — many of them Islamic — co-signed a letter to State Attorney General Kamala Harris this week defending the rights of a Sikh American to become a state correctional officer without shaving his beard.

Tilochan Oberoi was denied a job as a prison guard in Folsom because of a claim by Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation that he couldn’t be properly fitted for a gas mask unless he shaved. Harris filed a 22-page motion in Sacramento Superior Court saying that religious beliefs are not enough to trump the corrections department ban on prison guards wearing beards.

Oberoi, whose beard is a significant symbol of his Sikh faith, sued the CDCR, claiming his civil rights were violated.

The letter to Harris reads, in part, “Why should those who cannot shave for religious reasons be treated differently from those who cannot shave for medical reasons?”

In a separate letter to Gov. Jerry Brown, which urges the governor to follow federal law on this matter, the groups wrote Harris’ stance on this matter “jeopardiz[es] the civil rights of Sikhs, Muslims, Jews and indeed all others who still face the ignominy of having to choose between religious freedom and a job.”

“We signed onto the letter because we view this as an important religious freedom question,” said Nancy Appel, associate director of the ADL’s Central Pacific Region, which is based in San Francisco