In a significant win for the Sikh American community, Blaine resident Jatinder Singh and Sikh American Legal Defence and Educational Fund (SALDEF) succeeded in challenging the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Driver and Vehicle Services' (DVS) driver's license policy. The victory ensures that he and other Sikh Americans in Minnesota can wear their turbans in driver's licence photos.
Last month, Singh contacted SALDEF after he was told his turban was not allowed in his driver's license photo effectively barring him from renewing his license.
In direct discussions, SALDEF pointed DVS officials to the department's explicit policy on religious accommodation. In fact, the department's own guidance material shows examples of compliant photographs, including a full-face photo of a Sikh American man wearing a turban.
Following SALDEF's intervention, Singh was able to successfully obtain his licence with his articles of faith intact.
DVS director, Patricia McCormick apologised for the incident and reported, "As a result of your letter and the agent's actions, the department is working to remind agents and drivers licence examination staff involved in process for renewals, specifically, related to accommodating the Sikh turban." She pledged to work with SALDEF on religious accommodation training of DVS staff as needed.
"We commend director McCormack and the Minnesota DVS for quickly correcting this problem so Jatinder Singh could get his driver's license," said Jasjit Singh, executive director of SALDEF. "We also commend Jatinder Singh for identifying an opportunity to make change, for the benefit of Sikh Americans in Minnesota and elsewhere, who now see a shining example of a fair policy properly enforced."
SALDEF is also thankful for local community member support from Jasjit Ahluwalia, Harsohena Kaur, and Ricky Singh.