Sikh American Drives Away with Victory in Minnesota

MINNESOTA (TIP): In a significant win for the Sikh American community in Minnesota, Jatinder Singh of Blaine, Minnesota and 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 license 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. SALDEF immediately contacted DVS to address the matter.

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, Jatinder Singh was able to successfully obtain his license with his articles of faith intact.

DVS Director, Patricia McCormick apologized 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 license examination staff of the 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 has expressed gratitude for local community member support from Jasjit Ahluwalia, Harsohena Kaur, and Ricky Singh.

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