Restaurateur Obtains Exemption to Wear Sikh Article of Faith
States often have rigid rules about certain things, and the restaurant business, because it can have catastrophic effects on our lives, is no exception. Although the rules are rigid, there is often scope for a variance, in individual cases.
The owner of a restaurant in Duluth, Georgia, was repeatedly cited by inspectors because he wears a kara, (a wrist bangle) while working in the restaurant.
The man, Navraj Singh Banga, was told by a Georgia health inspector that wearing the kara violated state health regulations. The repeated citations could have resulted in the state shutting down his business, Lajawaab Indian Cuisine.
Georgia health regulations do not allow food preparers to wear jewelry, except for an exemption for wedding rings. Mr. Banga cooks food at his restaurant, and state health inspectors told him no accommodation would be allowed for his religiously-mandated kara.
Mr Banga contacted the Sikh Coalition, a community organization that works for the civil and human rights for all people, and serves as a resource on Sikhs and Sikh concerns.
The Sikh Coalition researched the issue and discovered that the state does allow exceptions to health regulations on a case-by-case basis.
The organization represented Mr. Banga in a variance application, arguing that the rejection of the owner’s request violated state and federal constitutional guarantees of free exercise of religion.
No one should live in fear that the government will shut down their business because of their religious beliefs
In the Rules Waiver Petition, Mr Banga asserted that wearing the kara on the wrist poses less of a health risk than a wedding band on a finger.
Last month, the state agreed, and Mr. Banga can now wear his kara while working in his restaurant, without penalty.
This decision, documented on the state “Rules Waiver Register” website sets a precedent in the State of Georgia, and allows other Sikh restaurant owners in Georgia to wear their kara while working.
“I would like to thank everyone at the Sikh Coalition for fighting for me, supporting me, and for winning! This victory will raise awareness among the Sikh community and will encourage other Sikhs to fight to practice their faith.”
– Mr. Navraj Singh Banga.
The Guru Nanak Mission Society of Atlanta provided a supporting letter to the petition.