A former Internal Revenue Service agent in Houston who was fired for carrying a ritual dagger as an article of her Sikh religious faith has won a settlement with the federal government allowing her to bring it into federal buildings.
Kawaljeet Kaur Tagore filed suit against the IRS in early 2009 for discharging her from her job as an internal revenue agent with the IRS in July 2006 (see Woman Sues IRS After She is Fired for Wearing Knife to Work). Tagore had wanted to wear a “kirpan,” a blunt 9-inch dagger that she began wearing in 2005 in a curved sheath at her side after she was formally initiated into the Sikh faith. A judge dismissed several of her legal claims in September 2009 (see IRS Dagger Carrier’s Claims Partly Dismissed and More on the Case of the IRS Dagger Carrier).
However, the case continued, and in a settlement announced last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit agreed to settle the case shortly after the start of Tagore’s appeals hearing. Under the settlement, the federal government agreed to scrap its ban on the wearing of kirpans and give Tagore a clean employment record, along with renewed access to federal buildings. The Federal Protective Service agency, which provides security in government buildings, also agreed to acknowledge that wearing a kirpan is permitted under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Under the terms of the settlement, Tagore will not be allowed to get her old job back at the IRS, but she will be able to apply for employment at other federal agencies, according to the Houston Chronicle. Tagore is currently a self-employed tax consultant.
“Sikh Americans shouldn’t have to choose between their faith and their jobs,” said Daniel Blomberg, legal counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented Tagore. “The government doesn’t get to say that sharp knives are okay if they are brought in to cut birthday cakes, but dull kirpans aren’t okay because they are religious items. The settlement announced today confirms that religious freedom is not a second class right.”
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