Generals Call on US Military to Allow Sikhs to Serve
A coalition of 27 retired General officers signed a letter (PDF) urging the US Department of Defense to allow Sikhs to serve in the US military. Currently, Sikhs must abandon the articles of their faith — including uncut hair, beards, and turbans — before they can join the military:
Although Sikhs have served honorably in the U.S. military since World War I, restrictive appearance regulations adopted in 1981 created barriers to their service. Revisions earlier this year to DOD Instruction 1300.17 make it possible for service members to request religious accommodations; however, the new guidelines presumptively exclude Sikh articles of faith, forcing Sikhs to repeatedly apply for waivers and even violate their religion while an accommodation request is pending.
One of the notable signatures on the letter is retired US Army Chaplain (BrigGen) Douglas E. Lee, who is also president of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty. A wide variety of religious freedom groups like the Chaplain Alliance and others like the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty have been consistent voices advocating for military religious freedom for Sikhs.
Notably absent has been Michael “Mikey” Weinstein, who expressed general support for Sikhs a few years ago but has since remained silent on their ability to serve while exercising their faith.
Silent, too, has been just about everyone else. US Army Reserve Maj Kamal Kalsi, himself Sikh, made a strong case that accommodation should not even be necessary: Sikhs should simply be able to serve:
Our turbans and military heritage represent our identity as well as our commitment to social justice. Patriotic Sikh Americans continue to be targets for hate crimes, bullying and job discrimination at rampant rates. The best way for our country to push back against this prejudice is through service, sacrifice and education. That responsibility should start with the military changing this outdated policy of exclusion.
His argument is compelling, but it has failed to catch the public’s attention. Perhaps if Sikhs could somehow ‘serve in silence’ and ‘lie about who they are’, or convince people you just have to shoot straight, not wear your hair straight, then they could garner the sympathy of those who have supported the service of homosexuals and ‘transgenders’.
Sikhs should be able to serve without being required to abandon the articles of their faith. They would be living, breathing, visible examples of the US military’s support for religious freedom.
And that’s why it scares some people. If Sikhs are allowed to wear their turbans, who knows how far liberty will go? Next thing you know, Christians might be able to be seen with Bibles. Shocking.
Until then, society’s priority seems to be erotic liberty, rather than the human liberty of religious freedom protected by the US Constitution.