US Air Force Allows Sikh Airman to Keep Beard, Turban

In a first for the Service, the US Air Force has allowed a Sikh Airman to wear a beard in uniform:

The U.S. Air Force has granted a religious accommodation to an active duty Sikh airman that will allow him to wear a turban, beard and unshorn hair in accordance with his faith.

In a statement, Airman 1st Class Harpreetinder Singh Bajwa said he was “overjoyed that the Air Force has granted my religious accommodation. Today, I feel that my country has embraced my Sikh heritage, and I will be forever grateful for this opportunity.”

Bajwa enlisted in 2017 as a clean-shaven, cropped-hair recruit, but learned of the US Army’s grooming exceptions for Sikhs in 2018. He sought the help of the Sikh American Veterans Alliance and the ACLU, and four months later had his religious accommodation granted.

Heather Weaver of the ACLU is quoted as saying

…no one should have to choose between following their faith or serving their country…we hope that all branches of the military come to recognize the importance of religious inclusion and diversity.

You’ll note there are two non-profits working for Bajwa’s liberties, while there’s a glaring absence of the self-proclaimed “sole non-profit” military religion group, Michael “Mikey” Weinstein’s MRFF. While he claims to have Sikh clients, Weinstein has generally ignored or downplayed the issue of Sikh military religious freedom. The most likely reason, of course, is the free exercise enjoyed by Sikhs can likewise be enjoyed by Jews, Muslims, and Christians.

Mikey is too cowardly to outright oppose religious freedom for Sikhs in the military — despite the fact it would be consistent with his supposed principles — and yet he’s also afraid to support them, knowing that “a rising tide lifts all boats,” and a turban-wearing Sikh Airman bodes well for a military Christian who wants to display his faith publicly, too.

Weinstein has previously said military policies promoting Sikh religious freedom could lead to a “tsunami of fundamentalist Christian oppression.”¬† The facts have proven him wrong, as they generally do.

Originally at the Washington Post. Also at Later at the Baptist Joint Committee. Photo via the ACLU.