McLEAN, Virginia (AP) — The U.S. Army has ruled that three Sikh enlistees will be allowed to serve while keeping their distinctive beards and turbans.
The three Sikhs filed a lawsuit seeking to end a military policy that generally bans beards. The Sikh religion requires men to grow beards as an article of their faith.
On Friday, the Army granted exceptions to the three enlistees, Kanwar Singh, Harpal Singh and Arjan Singh Ghotra. They will now be allowed to wear beards and turbans when they begin basic training next month.
A fourth soldier, Capt. Simratpal Singh, won a separate administrative exception earlier this month.
The Sikh Coalition had sued on the soldiers’ behalf. The coalition said it will still pursue its lawsuit in hopes of winning a permanent policy change for all Sikhs.
While there is a process for service members to seek an exception on a case-by-case basis, it is onerous, said Harsimran Kaur, legal director for the Sikh Coalition.
Kaur said she is aware of only eight Sikhs who have been granted exemptions, including the four who just recently received them.
Ben Sakrisson, a Pentagon spokesman, said requests for religious accommodations “are assessed on a case-by-case basis and should be approved by commanders when accommodation will not have an adverse impact on mission accomplishment, including military readiness, unit cohesion, standards, or discipline.”
This article was written by Matthew Barakat from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
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