Authority Issues Apology After Removing Sikh’s Turban From License Picture

(DSU News Bureau) The NJ Motor Vehicle Commission of Trenton, New Jersey violated the religious rights of a Sikh after a staff member purposely removed the turban of Samitter Singh from his license photograph.

The incident occurred on January 29, 2014 and now the vehicle authority has issued a statement of apology. Samitter Singh was shocked after they removed his turban from the photograph and told he wouldn’t be issued a license if he didn’t comply with them. After repeated attempts to explain his religious rights and his commitment to his faith, the authority rejected his application.

Samitter contacted United Sikhs, a Sikh rights group who filed a complaint with the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division against the motor vehicle authority. However, this proved ineffective and the matter was handed over from the Department of Justice to the Civil Rights Division at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

In the months that followed, UNITED SIKHS worked persistently with the NHSTA to ensure a new DL card for Mr.Singh, and a just resolution of this matter. We insisted that an apology for this discriminatory and demeaning incident is a must. In November 2014, Mr. Singh was photographed while wearing his turban for his new DL card.

And, finally in March 2015, a written apology was secured from the Motor Vehicles Commission in New Jersey. We would like to thank Mr.Eric Treene at the DOJ Civil Rights Division and Ms.Regina Morgan at the NHSTA Civil Rights Division for their valuable time and support in ensuring this matter reaches a just conclusion.

“This apology again sends a message that the rule of law prevails in the United States, and that civil rights violations such as this won’t go unchecked. It’s about time that state and federal agencies which involve public dealings adequately train their staff on religious and cultural sensitivities”, said UNITED SIKHS counsel, and the attorney on this case, Mr.Manmeet Singh.
As a Civil Rights Organization, UNITED SIKHS is dedicated to its advocacy efforts and is happy to report to the community that our commitment to this matter has led to a successful religious accommodation and favourable outcome for our client. As always, we encourage you to practice your faith freely and fearlessly. …”

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