A Sikh man has sued a Texas judge who allegedly forced him to remove his turban during a traffic citation case.
In the lawsuit filed on his behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union in the state district court in Dallas on Friday, Amardeep Singh charged Judge Albert Cercone with religious discrimination.
Singh was deeply humiliated as he was forced to remove his turban, which is an integral part of a Sikh’s identity, said ACLU’s legal director Lisa Graybill.
The incident dates back to June 2006 when Singh, who was defending himself in a speeding case, was ordered out of Judge Cercone’s courtroom and threatened with arrest on refusing to remove his turban.
Singh said that he tried to explain to the judge that his faith requires him to wear a turban, but Cercone ordered him to leave the courtroom or face arrest.
“There is no question that Amardeep Singh’s rights have been violated. Judge Cercone not only denied Singh his basic rights to religious practice while defending himself in court, he caused him deep humiliation as well,” said Graybill said.
Singh said that when he arrived at the court, he was told by a court employee that he was in violation of the court’s “no hats” policy and that he must remove his “hat.”
Though Singh tried to convince Judge Cercone that his turban was not an accessory but an important part of his faith, the latter said that if Singh did not leave the courtroom and stayed with his hat on, he would be arrested.
After consulting his uncle, who is a Sikh priest, Singh removed his turban and tied his hair in a pony tail to return to the courtroom “in a personally compromising and humiliating position,” states the lawsuit.
“I could not believe that a judge whose job is to uphold the law would show such disrespect to my religion,” Singh said.
“As a devout Sikh, my hair, beard, and turban have deep religious meaning to me. I treat this article of faith with utmost respect and pride. A turban is not an optional clothing item to put on and remove at will. Ordering me to remove my turban was extremely humiliating for me,” he said.
Singh has also filed a complaint with the State Commission on Judicial Misconduct about the incident.
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