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Old March 29, 2013, 12:36 PM   #1
amathis
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Sikh Man Claims Gun Laws Violate Religion

This is a very interesting story from California where a Sikh man claims as part of his lawsuit that gun control violates his first amendment right to freedom of religion. He claims that the gun control laws put him at risk, as he cannot carry a weapon of his choice for self defense.

This is interesting as according to Sikh doctrine one must be prepared to defend themselves and others against injustice.

The article is here:

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/...st-gun-contro/

Do you think this has any bearing on our issues with dealing with gun control? Could religious "doctrine" force the government to reconsider their stance?

In any case this is an interesting approach at defending our Second Amendment rights.
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Old March 29, 2013, 01:15 PM   #2
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I am not a Sikh, but I do know a few. I recall them wearing a kirpan, but not a gun. My understanding was the religious requirement was the wearing of a kirpan, but maybe I misunderstand the requirement.
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Old March 29, 2013, 01:21 PM   #3
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I am also not a Sikh, nor can I claim that I personally know any Sikhs. From my admittedly limited understanding, though, one of their tenets does involve the carrying of a ceremonial knife. Whether that tenet would extend to the carrying of a firearm, I know not.

Nonetheless, I'll be interested in seeing how this shakes out, because I see a lot of noise on various boards about how the "no guns in church laws" violate separation of church and state. One of my usual comments to such noise is something to the effect of: No, it doesn't. Not unless carrying a firearm is really a tenet of the belief system applicable to the church in question.
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Old March 29, 2013, 01:25 PM   #4
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I should note two of the Sikhs I know were co-workers on a military base. They did not carry a large kirpan, but they could have been wearing a knife with a blade under 3.5 inches as I believe that would be allowed.

Out of interest I did a search on google, it appears there have been a couple of cases in the US in which sikhs sued and won when challenging laws that stopped them from carrying their kirpans. I also know Sikhs have lost cases challenging motorcycle helmet laws on religious grounds in the US and in Canada. *edit* they challenged the helmet laws because their religion requires they not cut their hair and I believe they are also required to keep it bundled up on their heads which makes wearing a helmet very difficult, as you might imagine**
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Old March 29, 2013, 01:36 PM   #5
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Quote:
I see a lot of noise on various boards about how the "no guns in church laws" violate separation of church and state. One of my usual comments to such noise is something to the effect of: No, it doesn't. Not unless carrying a firearm is really a tenet of the belief system applicable to the church in question.
It violates separation of church and state because the church is getting preferential treatment by the law. Churches should be treated as any other private business, they can ban guns by their own policy and post signs, but they should not get the benefit of laws that apply specifically to them.

By the way, my use of "preferential" and "benefit" here don't mean I support gun bans, they just seem the most appropriate words.
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Old March 29, 2013, 01:41 PM   #6
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If it applies equally to all churches or places of worship, how is one church getting preferential treatment over the others?
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Old March 29, 2013, 02:01 PM   #7
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If the display of religious symbols on public property, or making reference to religion by government employees or during a government sanctioned event amount to "establishing religion", then how can government policy treating religious venues different than other private entities specifically because of religion not amount to "prohibiting the free exercise" of religion?

Granted, I can't think of any religions that require the possession of weapons to worship (though perhaps the Sikhs do, I don't know), but those laws are ASSUMING that houses of worship would want to prohibit them- government trying to make policy on religious matters.

Taking it a step further and playing the "what if" game, what if a religion actually does require the carrying of arms in worship? How could those prohibitions then not violate the 1st Amendment as they would directly impact free exercise?

Last edited by JN01; March 29, 2013 at 02:07 PM.
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Old March 29, 2013, 02:09 PM   #8
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Start by seeing Spats McGee’s Federal Constitutional Primer

In particular, check out the First Amendment:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Founding Fathers
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. U.S. Const, Amend. I
It doesn't say "Congress shall not pass any law that affects any religious institution in any way." It says "shall pass no law respecting the establishment of religion." A religious symbol is particular to one given religion, and displaying one on gov't property is akin to endorsing that religion. Prohibiting all religions from allowing concealed carry (or open carry) on their property does not advance one religion over the others.

Comparing them to all other private property is an apples-to-oranges comparison. Bear in mind that I, personally, oppose laws that do prohibit concealed carry on any property, but it's not a violation of the doctrine of separation of church and state..

ETA: I just saw the following edit to your post:
Quote:
Taking it a step further and playing the "what if" game, what if a religion actually does require the carrying of arms in worship? How could those prohibitions then not violate the 1st Amendment as they would directly impact free exercise?
That is precisely what makes this case interesting. If a religion actually did have "carry a weapon" as one its bona fide tenets, then there might be a valid A1 argument. However, I'm unaware of any religion that specifically requires the carrying of a firearm.
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Old March 29, 2013, 02:13 PM   #9
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Banning guns is churches can not violate the "separation of church and state" because constitutionally no such thing exists. It is one of the most tortured interpretations of constitutional law since Dred Scott.

On the matter of the Sikh religion, I'll be interested to see where the case goes.

It seems like putting the cart before the horse.... in other words, what about the blatant violation of the 2nd, on the face of it, before you even consider secondary implications?
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Old March 29, 2013, 02:16 PM   #10
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Brian makes a good point. I got all wrapped up in "firearms," but that's not what the 2A says. It says "arms," which SCOTUS says includes "all manner of bearable arms," or some such. Knives fall into that category, IMO.
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Old March 29, 2013, 04:03 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spats McGee
Nonetheless, I'll be interested in seeing how this shakes out, because I see a lot of noise on various boards about how the "no guns in church laws" violate separation of church and state. One of my usual comments to such noise is something to the effect of: No, it doesn't. Not unless carrying a firearm is really a tenet of the belief system applicable to the church in question.
I expect many Roman Catholics and many RC priests would not agree with me but, IMHO, the Roman Catholic Church holds exactly that as a tenet of faith. From the RC Catechism:

Quote:
I. RESPECT FOR HUMAN LIFE

The witness of sacred history


2259 In the account of Abel's murder by his brother Cain,[57] Scripture reveals the presence of anger and envy in man, consequences of original sin, from the beginning of human history. Man has become the enemy of his fellow man. God declares the wickedness of this fratricide: "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand."[58]

2260 The covenant between God and mankind is interwoven with reminders of God's gift of human life and man's murderous violence:
For your lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning.... Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image.[59] The Old Testament always considered blood a sacred sign of life.[60] This teaching remains necessary for all time.

2261 Scripture specifies the prohibition contained in the fifth commandment: "Do not slay the innocent and the righteous."[61] The deliberate murder of an innocent person is gravely contrary to the dignity of the human being, to the golden rule, and to the holiness of the Creator. The law forbidding it is universally valid: it obliges each and everyone, always and everywhere.

2262 In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord recalls the commandment, "You shall not kill,"[62] and adds to it the proscription of anger, hatred, and vengeance. Going further, Christ asks his disciples to turn the other cheek, to love their enemies.[63] He did not defend himself and told Peter to leave his sword in its sheath.[64]

Legitimate defense

2263 The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. "The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one's own life; and the killing of the aggressor.... The one is intended, the other is not."[65]

2264 Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one's own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow:
If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful.... Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one's own life than of another's.[65]

2265 Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for someone responsible for another's life. Preserving the common good requires rendering the unjust aggressor unable to inflict harm. To this end, those holding legitimate authority have the right to repel by armed force aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their charge.[66]
It should be noted that "Thou shalt not kill" is now considered an archaic and inaccurate translation. The more current rendition is usually offered as "Do no commit murder." The difference is subtle, but highly significant.

If self-defense and defense of the innocent is a "grave duty," it's not much of a stretch at all to say that this calls for the bearing of arms in any place where armed assault may be possible.
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Old March 29, 2013, 04:10 PM   #12
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Whether you're right or wrong, I see no reference in your passage to a firearm.

Besides, RC doctrine is not the subject of this thread.
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Old March 29, 2013, 04:17 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spats McGee
Besides, RC doctrine is not the subject of this thread.
You asked about churches holding the bearing of arms as a tenet of faith. I agree, the RC Catechism doesn't specifically mention "firearms," but it does hold as a tenet of faith that defense of the innocent is a "grave duty." How is one to carry out that duty in the face of potentially armed assailants if one in not himself or herself armed?

Example: Jean Assam and the New Life Church in Arvada, Colorao: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2007_Co...Life_shootings
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Old March 29, 2013, 05:35 PM   #14
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It doesn't say "Congress shall not pass any law that affects any religious institution in any way." It says "shall pass no law respecting the establishment of religion." A religious symbol is particular to one given religion, and displaying one on gov't property is akin to endorsing that religion. Prohibiting all religions from allowing concealed carry (or open carry) on their property does not advance one religion over the others.
I don't see how the display constitutes "establishing a religion" but courts have said as much.

Quote:
Comparing them to all other private property is an apples-to-oranges comparison. Bear in mind that I, personally, oppose laws that do prohibit concealed carry on any property, but it's not a violation of the doctrine of separation of church and state..
How so? If a retail sales outlet and a church are both privately owned, and the law allows property owners to prohibit/allow guns on premises, it seems they should both enjoy equal treatment under the law. Discrimination against an individual on the basis of religion is not permitted, is it/should it be different for property owners? And if it is, in fact, discriminatory, does that not speak to the "free exercise" clause? (I realize that no court has said as much, nor, it seems have they said much else about religious rights restrictions lately)
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Old March 29, 2013, 05:39 PM   #15
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In doing some limited reading on the Sikh religion, and the shooting at thier Temple in Wisconsin, I thought the challenge was based on the duty of a Sikh religous leader to protect his charges during thier time of worship.

Being denied the right to carry an effective weapon certainly makes that hard.

The fellow in Wisonsin tried valiantly to stop the shooter with his ceremonial dagger.
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Old March 29, 2013, 05:56 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JN01
How so? If a retail sales outlet and a church are both privately owned, and the law allows property owners to prohibit/allow guns on premises, it seems they should both enjoy equal treatment under the law. Discrimination against an individual on the basis of religion is not permitted, is it/should it be different for property owners? And if it is, in fact, discriminatory, does that not speak to the "free exercise" clause? (I realize that no court has said as much, nor, it seems have they said much else about religious rights restrictions lately)
It's an entirely different legal principle. It might be a violation of Equal Protection but it's not a violation of any "separation of church and state". Even if such a thing existed, it has nothing to do with an establishment or endorsement of a religion. It has to do with RKBA or Equal Protection. The religious aspect is irrelevant.
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Old March 29, 2013, 06:05 PM   #17
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Religions have a lot of traditions. Forced marriage of children. Stoning people to death covering up child abuse etc. so i personally Don't think religions should have any influence on government policies any more than any other large organisations. So In answer to the question my answer would be they shouldn't be allowed to. PS I am sure their are also religions that would support gun control.
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Quote:
Could religious "doctrine" force the government to reconsider their stance

Last edited by manta49; March 29, 2013 at 06:15 PM.
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Old March 29, 2013, 06:37 PM   #18
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I think we are focusing on the wrong part of the wording here.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof .
If part of my religious beliefs whether they be Roman Catholic, Sikh, whatever is that I must be allowed to defend myself or others effectively, then by depriving me of the most effective weapons (firearms) how can you not be "prohibiting the free exercise of my religion?
Sikhs as I understand it are supposed to be dedicated to the idea of being a soldier of god that defends all around them from evil. This is most often demonstrated outwardly by wearing a dagger or "kirpan".
Below is the most succinct summation of these parts of their beliefs.
"The kirpan is worn strapped to a belt known as a gatra, and the wearer is specifically forbidden from using the blade in anger or malice. However, traditionally Sikhs were expected to draw their kirpans to defend the helpless, or to assist people in need. This was an important part of the saint-warrior ethos of the Sikh community, with many Sikh men training in martial arts to learn how to effectively defend others from attack.

For a Sikh, the kirpan is a very important religious symbol. Removing the kirpan is not allowed, and it is also emotionally traumatic, because the blade is an important part of the wearer's religious identity.


Here is an excerpt from a letter form Sikh Father to his Son that also explains the practical aspects of this part of their beliefs.
"It is only we who want to be one sided in our love and make claims of loving the Guru in our ideals, in our heart and consequently we reason out that we don't have to express our love for Him in action, in the Desh, but can there be love without total commitment and action?"
If a Sikh were to neglect to defend a weak or helpless person near him being attacked he would indeed be doing something clearly against his religion. If I've forced him into that position, it seems to me I've prevented him from practicing his religion freely.
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Old March 29, 2013, 06:53 PM   #19
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Manta, are you aware that even the U.K. with it's laws makes an exception for a Sikh's kirpan? "The carrying of a kirpan (mini sword) is permitted under Section 139 Criminal Justice Act 1988 as a religious artifact. It is usually about 4.5 inches long and must be sheathed at all times, although for ceremonial purposes a full length sword is always used."
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Old March 29, 2013, 07:16 PM   #20
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Quote:
Manta, are you aware that even the U.K. with it's laws makes an exception for a Sikh's kirpan? "The carrying of a kirpan (mini sword) is permitted under Section 139 Criminal Justice Act 1988 as a religious artifact. It is usually about 4.5 inches long and must be sheathed at all times, although for ceremonial purposes a full length sword is always used
Yes i am aware but disagree. If i walk down the street with a sword or knife on display i would get arrested. So i don't see why a religious organisation should be treated any differently.

But as i said i am sure that some other religions would be all for gun control.
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Old March 29, 2013, 07:31 PM   #21
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So if this case is made could a "church of the righteous right to defend" or other organization be created where one of its spiritual beliefs is that one should be armed at any time to defend the life of themselves or others? Allowing the Sikhs to do so would certainly create a precedent.

I am more of a humanist than a spiritualist but I believe it part of my ethical code that a person should always be ready and able to defend themselves or innocents within reason so this is really not too far of a step
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Old March 29, 2013, 07:34 PM   #22
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The Kirpan is also allowed to pass a TSA checkpoint into a passeger aircraft, as it's been ruled to be a religious right to never be separted from it.

Sikhs have historically filled Indian Army NCO positions, and many fill high level security positions in India. I flew as a contract pilot in India, and all of our armed security people were Sikh. They are the real-deal when it comes to practicing what they preach. You definately want them on your side. When next you meet one pumping your gas, say "Thank you, Mr. Singh" when you are done. He will be surprised you know his surname, which Sikh men gain at maturity. It means "Lion". They take it seriously.


There are 5 articles of faith that every Sikh man carries:

Kesh, Kanga, Kara, Kirpan, and Kachehra:
Hair, Comb, Bracelet, Sword, and Pants.

If they want to supplement a Kirpan with a Colt, I'm all for it...



Willie

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Last edited by Willie Sutton; March 29, 2013 at 07:40 PM.
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Old March 29, 2013, 07:37 PM   #23
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Just a reminder that that this is the Law & Civil Rights forum. The topic is the law as it affects members of an existing religion; comparative religion and religion in general are off-topic, as are hypothetical religions.
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Old March 29, 2013, 08:09 PM   #24
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Sorry, let me try my question again:

Would this prove precedent for members of another religion to carry a weapon if it was a tenant of the religion?

I hope that's a little more direct and permissible.
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Old March 29, 2013, 08:25 PM   #25
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After doing a little more research, most countries with significant Sikh populations have laws written so that their kirpan specifically can be worn because of this very reason.
Interestingly I haven't found a single incident describing misuse of the weapon by a Sikh.
Considering that even in America we have laws admitting that wearing the kirpan is a constitutionally protected right, if there were to be clear documented teachings that firearms fell under the same teachings by their Guru's there seems to be a clear, even strong, case that they would be constitutional.

It seems like a very clear precedent in this case.
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