Living by the Sword: The Free Exercise of Religion and the Sikh Struggle for the Right to Carry a Kirpan


Sikhism is a 500 year old religion with a growing presence in the United States. However, one of the articles of faith required for Sikhs, a kirpan (a ceremonial sword), conflicts with the norms of American life for these often misunderstood people. This paper gives a brief primer on Sikhism and discusses some of the day-to-day problems and recent issues facing kirpan-carrying Sikhs in North America. Upon reviewing the current state of free exercise jurisprudence as applied to the kirpan, I outline several suggestions for the acceptance and accommodation of kirpans.


Civil Rights and Discrimination | Constitutional Law | Law and Society | Religion Law

Date of this Version

January 2006