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Weprin bill seeks to protect civil right to religious wear

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Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis) introduced the Uniformed Agencies Anti-Discrimination Act with co-sponsorship from Councilman David Yassky (D-Brooklyn Heights) and Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows). "I don't believe it to be unreasonable to ask that city agencies respect the practices of different religions by not directing that in order for an employee to retain his or her job, he or she must forgo a particular religious creed and violate a religious mandate," said Weprin at a press conference at City Hall last week.The bill has gained the support of the Sikh Coalition, which fought with the city after the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority said an agency pin must be worn on the headdress of Sikh employees. "Discrimination and hate violence have no place in our city,' said Amardeep Singh, legal director of the Sikh Coalition. "We are pleased by Councilman Weprin's initiative to ensure our city is prepared to protect our communities when disaster strikes." Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 several Sikhs were attacked in Queens and across the country because their turbans and beards resembled those worn by members of the Taliban, who supported Saudi Arabian terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden.The other bill introduced by Weprin is the Anti-Hate Crimes Act, which seeks to put in place a plan to stop hate crimes after "certain triggering events take place" like those that targeted Muslims after Sept. 11, according to Weprin's office.In conjunction with Weprin's anti-hate bill, Yassky and Gennaro have sponsored legislation aimed at expanding and stiffening the state's hate crimes laws. Gennaro's resolution would bolster the hate crimes law to include bias motivated acts that are not just directed at a person or location but a group as a whole. The legislation stems from an incident on Staten Island where two men set a fire in an intersection in the shape of a swastika but could not be charged with a hate crime because it was not directed at a person. The Yassky bill, the Hate Crimes Fines Act, would impose hefty fines against violators of the current hate crime laws."Council members Yassky, Gennaro, and I believe that the purpose of this package of bills is to make our city safe for diversity," said Weprin. "Fighting hate in our community is the larger mission of the entire City Council."Reach reporter Peter A. Sutters Jr. by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext. 173.

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