SALDEF - Sikh American Legal Defense & Education Fund - The new name of SMART
Don't you look foolish now.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.
Tarun Singh KatariaSALDEF intervened in the case on behalf of Mr. Kataria when in August 2005 he arrived at the Lauren’s County Probate 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.”