Thursday, February 07, 2013

Feds Ease Rules On Taking Religious Items Through Federal Building Security

According to a news release this week from the Becket Fund, the Department of Homeland Security last December issued Federal Protective Service Directive Number: 15.9.3.1 creating a procedure to allow religious items through screening at federal buildings, even though they would otherwise be banned.  This has particularly become an issue with Sikh kirpans. The new policy was apparently not made public by the government until a few days ago. It provides in part:
Some items that are otherwise prohibited from a particular Federal facility may have some other legitimate and lawful purpose or use in a Federal facility, including as accommodations for civil rights and civil liberties under Federal laws such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. 
One of the attachments to the FPS Directive is a Training Document titled Accommodating Sikh Articles of Faith.

All of this occurred as yesterday the 5th Circuit heard oral arguments (recording of full arguments) in Tagore v. United States, a federal lawsuit by a former Internal Revenue Service employee who was fired after she insisted on wearing her kirpan in a Houston federal office building. (See prior posting.) [Thanks to Eric Rassbach for the lead.]

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