Thursday, May 03, 2007
On this day:

He's Sikh?

I may be going out on a limb here, but if I had to venture a guess, I'd say that number of Sikhs in Cullman County, Alabama (pop. ~ 73,000) is somewhere between about 2 and 20.

Apparently, one of them is a shaggy-headed - as opposed to "nappy-headed"- high school student with the unlikely surname (for a Sikh, at least) of DeForest. From the B'ham News:

MONTGOMERY - A Cullman high school student was sent home for having long hair but was allowed back into school Wednesday wearing a headdress after telling school officials he was a Sikh.

The Sikh religion requires that followers do not cut their hair and requires that they wear a distinctive head covering much like a turban.

Cullman School Superintendent Hank Allen said the student, Tommy DeForest, was sent home from Good Hope High School because the length of his hair violated the school's dress code.

Allen said he was surprised when DeForest later professed to be a Sikh and said his long hair was part of his religion.

"We didn't have any idea he would return a Sikh," Allen said.

Efforts to reach DeForest failed Wednesday.

Officials with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty sent Allen a letter Monday saying the school system was violating DeForest's constitutional rights.

"The school literally forced Tommy to choose between his education and his faith," Derek Gaubatz, director of litigation for the Becket Fund, said in a statement issued Wednesday.

Allen said DeForest was not wearing a headdress when he was sent home from school. But he returned with information showing he had become Sikh and was following the practice of wearing a headdress and not cutting his hair, Allen said.

Allen said that, after research and communication with other Sikhs about the requirements of the religion, DeForest was allowed back in school and is attending classes wearing his headdress.

Now, I hate to be insensitive - I really do - but young Mr. DeForest's recent and seemingly all-too-convenient "conversion" leaves me just a wee bit skeptical of his intentions. It sounds like Principal Allen ("We didn't have any idea he would return a Sikh") may have been a little suspicious, too, but concluded that fighting a lawsuit to make such a hard-headed (again, as opposed to "nappy-headed") kid follow the rules just wasn't worth the effort.