Washington, D.C., February 2, 2007 -- On January 25 2007, Mr. Sanjum Paul Singh Samagh, a first year medical school student at the University of California - Irvine Medical School (UCI SOM), was denied entrance to the Pierce Street Annex in Costa Mesa, California, because his religiously mandated head-covering, called a dastaar (or turban), violated the business’s “no hat’s” policy.
Mr. Samagh entered the Pierce Street Annex to join his medical school classmates in celebrating another classmate’s birthday. When trying to gain entrance to the establishment, the security guard noted that Mr. Samagh was wearing a religious head covering, and that it would not be a problem, but advised that he speak to the owner. The owner, Mr. Douglas Adsit, then informed Mr. Samagh that the Pierce Street Annex does not allow entry to anyone wearing “headgear” and denied him entry. After hearing the stance of Mr. Adsit, the group of 20 students whom Mr. Asagh was supposed to [meet], left the establishment and moved the celebration to another location.
In a show of solidarity, the UCI SOM first and second year students have formally implemented a boycott against any medical school functions being held at the Pierce Street Annex until this issue is resolved to the satisfaction of Mr. Samagh.
In response to this incident, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) noted in a January 27, 2007 letter to Mr. Adsit, “The Sikh turban is a fundamental and integral part of a Sikh's identity. It is not a hat or cap that can be removed and put on casually. The turban is a religious article of faith which has been protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution as well as Federal and State courts across the country.”