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April 14, 2024 6:20 am

Sikhs in US told to shave or face strict action, slam correctional agency’s discriminatory beard policy

New York, February 15

Members of the penal law enforcement agency in the US state of California are now required to shave their facial hair, regardless of any religious or medical reasons they may have for keeping it, media reports said, a move civil rights activists say was disproportionately targeting religious minorities like the Sikhs and Black Americans.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) in an order on February 1 said staff members are required to shave facial hair, irrespective of any religious or medical reasons they may have for keeping it.

A CDCR official said the policy change was prompted to comply with the department’s Covid-19 safety measures.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and the Sikh Coalition, the new policy would disproportionately target religious minorities like Sikh and Black Americans.

They’ve rolled out this blanket, very over-broad policy, that all peace officers must shave to wear N-95s,” Harsimran Kaur, Sikh Coalition’s senior legal counsel, told NBC News.

“But we know that there are alternative respirators out there that bearded people can wear safely to do their jobs… We think there’s a way to keep bearded people safe and not trample on their civil rights,” Kaur said.

A US federal court on December 23 last year ruled that the Marines Corps, a part of the US Armed Forces, can’t restrict entry to Sikhs with a beard and a turban, according to The Washington Post.

The order came as a relief to three Sikh recruits who joined the elite fighting force for basic training.

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