Boomers accused of barring Muslims & Sikhs from go-karts

Boomers is accused of barring Muslims and Sikhs from riding go-karts.
April 29, 2014 10:22:10 PM PDT
A clash over religious headwear has led to a civil rights complaint against a Livermore theme park. Boomers is accused of barring Muslims and Sikhs from riding go-karts. It's is a dispute that pits safety against religious customs. Now, a state agency is being asked to investigate whether putting safety first discriminates against some of its customers.

Guests say the go-kart ride is the main draw at Boomers. Drivers and riders have to be a minimum height. And no headwear is allowed.

That's a problem for Muslims and Sikhs and the reason why complaints have been filed that Boomers is discriminating against customers with religious turbans or hijabs.

Thirteen-year-old Noorah Abdo says she was denied access last summer.

"I don't want them to feel like they can keep on denying us access," she said. "I want them to feel that they're wrong and the impact it's had on all of us, and I want them to know how we feel so it can change their policy."

Noorah is not alone. Seven members of the Bains family were turned away from the go-karts.

"You feel a lot of stigma," Diljit Singh Bains said. "They just tell you in front of everyone -- there's a long line -- they tell you, 'You can't go in there,' and they said like our sister or my mom could go because they weren't wearing anything. 'They can go in, but you guys can't.'"

Boomers operates parks in Livermore, Fresno and in Orange County. Parent company Palace Entertainment issued a statement in response to the state civil rights complaint saying in part, "Safety is our number one priority. This is not a matter of race or religion. This is a matter of safety."

A large sign posed at the ride spells out the no headwear policy. The policy points out, "People have died when hijabs, scarves and other lengthy headwear or neckwear became entangled into a go-kart's wheels or engine. Severe injuries can result, such as permanent damage to one's throat, vertebrae and voice box."

A Sikh, Harvinder Bains disagrees turbans pose a risk.

"With the turban we put on the top, it's totally tight," he said. "It's tied up. There's no way it can get loose or they can fly."

However, a parent who took his son for a go-kart ride thinks safety comes first.

"Sometimes you have to look out for yourself, and sometimes you have others look out for you," Mike Miller said. "This is a case where somebody else probably knows better because there have been accidents, I'm sure."

An attorney for the Council on American-Islamic Relations says efforts to negotiate a compromise have failed.


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