Queensland Court overturns ban on religious weapons

This marks a remarkable victory to Sikhs as they can now carry the holy Kirpan even to school premises.

Bhavana P

In a major victory for the Sikh community in Australia, the Queensland Supreme Court has allowed students belonging to the Sikh faith to carry religious knives (kirpans) on school grounds.

The court’s ruling overturned a law that banned carrying religious knives in public spaces and schools after determining it to be racially discriminatory. According to the five Sikh tenets, Sikh men are obligated to sport a silver bangle, or Kara, and the Kirpan.

Last year, Australian Sikh woman Kamaljit Kaur Athwal sued the state government, arguing that the Weapons Act prohibited her from carrying her religion's ceremonial sword, the Kirpan. She essentially argued that the knife ban prohibited Sikhs from visiting school grounds. Lawyer Claire Coles, who represented Athwal, said the court had a difficult task “to balance the human rights of individuals to practice their religion and express their faith with the human rights of student and teacher safety”.

Last year, a judge denied the claim that the restriction on carrying knives was discriminatory. However, three judges on the Court of Appeal (a section of the Supreme Court) issued a decision overturning the ruling. The bench made it clear that their judgement that permits Sikhs to legally enter a school with the Kirpan does not negate a school's ability to prohibit anybody else from carrying a knife on school grounds, such as students.


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