Sikh Family Wins Case Against School’s Turban Ban in Australia
The Melton Christian College had denied admission to five-year-old Sidhak for wearing a turban.
The decision of a Melbourne Christian school to refuse the enrollment of a five-year-old Sikh child for wearing a turban was wrong, a tribunal has ruled. The judgment was made by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal on Sept. 19, with the finding that the educational institution discriminated against the small boy.
“I consider that MCC’s uniform policy, in so far as it prohibits headgear of a non-Christian faith, could be described as ‘openly discriminatory’,” read the VCAT finding.
Strong Case of Discrimination
The petitioners Sagardeep Singh Arora and his wife Anureet said that Melton Christian College breached the equality act by denying his son, Sidhak, permission to wear a patka (turban worn by Sikh children) when they tried to enroll him in 2016.
“Whilst MCC is a Christian school, it has an open enrollment policy which means that it accepts enrollments of students from other faiths,” Julie Granger, a VCAT member, said.
“A little over 50 percent of the school community does not identify explicitly as Christian and many families at the school have no religious beliefs. It is not reasonable to accept enrollment applications from students from non-Christian faiths only on the condition that they do not look like they practice a non-Christian religion,” Granger added, News.com.au reported.
Granger said the school could have amended its uniform policy, which would have allowed Sidhak to wear a turban, and ordered the student’s parents and school officials to reach an amicable solution to end the issue.
Fight For Religious Freedom
The Tribunal’s decision was welcomed by Sidakh’s family. “We are very pleased that religious freedom… is alive in Victoria,” Arora said following the judgment.
The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission too welcomed the statement of VCAT. Kristen Hilton, the Commissioner of Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, said all the schools must ensure that their uniform policies are not discriminatory.
“We had thought that we were acting in accordance with the law, and so we respect the finding of VCAT,” said David Gleeson, the principal of Melbourne Christian School. ”Our school takes seriously the protection, dignity, rights and safety of children, so we were, and are concerned that this case has involved a young child in public controversy.”
Gleeson added that the school authorities will work together with Sidhak and his family to find a “constructive way forward”.