In what is fantastic news for religious liberty, the U.S. Army granted a Sikh soldier a long-term accommodation to serve in the military while wearing a beard and turban. Captain Simratpal Singh, a West Point graduate who received a Bronze Star in Afghanistan, had previously cut his hair and beard while serving, but filed a request for accommodation in October of 2015. That accommodation was granted today.
“Captain Singh again proves to our military that the religiously mandated turban and beard do not hinder the ability to successfully serve,” said Sikh Coalition Legal Director, Harsimran Kaur. “This decision gives hope that our nation’s largest employer is making progress towards ending a policy of religious discrimination.”
Captain Singh graduated from West Point with honors in 2010, but was then forced to make the untenable choice between his religion and his career. Following failed attempts to obtain an accommodation, he cut his hair and shaved his beard. After successfully completing Army Ranger School, a Bronze Star tour in Afghanistan, and receiving numerous other military accolades in various military positions, Captain Singh filed a religious accommodation request on October 21, 2015.
Throughout this process, the Department of Defense made attempts to delay and prohibit his accommodation, including a March 3rd court-denied attempt to subject Captain Singh to unprecedented, prejudiced testing. After this hard-won legal victory, and months after submitting his accommodation request, Captain Singh has finally realized his dream of becoming spiritually whole.
As part of the accommodation, the turbans worn have to be either black or camouflage.
Three other Sikhs are seeking a similar accommodation before beginning Basic Combat Training, but according to the Sikh Coalition, these requests have been ignored.
The government should be doing everything possible to allow for religious liberty. Captain Singh is clearly an accomplished soldier, and a beard and turban won't have a negative effect on this.