A little more than a week ago, I wrote about how the U.S. Army had approved an accommodation allowing a Sikh soldier to serve while wearing a turban and a beard in accordance with his faith. At the end of my piece, I noted that three other Sikhs were also seeking an accommodation to attend Basic Combat Training while wearing a turban and beard. Today, those requests were granted.
Just one week after deciding to accommodate Bronze Medal recipient Captain Simratpal Singh, the Army is now allowing three more Sikhs to serve with their religious beards and turbans in place. Specialist Kanwar Singh, Specialist Harpal Singh, and Private Arjan Ghotra can finally report to Basic Combat Training in May with their conscience protected.
Although the Army has granted thousands of exceptions to its shaving rules for medical reasons, the four religious exceptions in the last week are more than all accommodations granted to Sikhs in the last thirty-five years since the beard-ban has been enforced. The Army’s decision is not legally binding, however, and may be withdrawn at any time. In fact, the Army has already stated that the accommodations will be re-evaluated in approximately one year. So the soldiers will continue their lawsuit to ask the court to make their accommodations lasting and legally binding.
Good. Religious beliefs should be accommodated as much as possible as long as they don't impede the success of the mission, and since there's a pretty longstanding tradition of facial hair in the military, this shouldn't be an issue.