Despite claims by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter that tolerance is “a practical necessity” in the US military — and that nothing unrelated to someone’s qualifications should prevent them from serving — people who are prevented from serving for reasons other than sexuality aren’t reaping the fruits of that newfound practical “tolerance.”
Tag Archives: kamaljeet singh kalsi
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 Read more
In the face of a Supreme Court decision requiring an employer to accommodate a job seeker’s head scarf, NPR’s Tom Gjelten asks “Why Are Only Three Observant Sikh Men Serving In The U.S. Military?”
“What I’m anticipating with this decision is that we will have a move in this country to recognize the right of individuals from different religious backgrounds to live in an America that does not discriminate against them on the basis of how they appear,” says Simran Jeet Singh, the senior religion fellow for the Sikh Coalition.
The article largely rehashes the story and one recent Read more
While many continue to focus on promoting “sexual liberty” within the US military — primarily open service by homosexuals, bisexuals, transsexuals, etc-sexuals — few have come to the aid of Sikhs who want to serve in the US military. (Sikhs wanting to serve in the US military have received more press in India than the US.) Sikhs seek a waiver not for behavior, but for their religious beliefs. Kamal Singh Kalsi, a Sikh who obtained an exception to the uniform policy and was allowed to serve wearing a beard and turban, recently highlighted the inability of Sikhs to serve, as well as the increasing calls for the DoD to “fix” policies that prevent them from joining:
With the support of the advocacy group The Sikh Coalition, 105 members of the House of Representatives and 15 senators sent letters to the Department of Defense urging the U.S. armed forces to modernize appearance regulations so patriotic Sikh Americans can serve the country they love while abiding by their articles of faith.
The re-write earlier this year of religious accommodation regulations in the US military would presumably have made it easier for Sikhs to obtain an exception and join while wearing the accoutrements of their faith. However, Read more
Update: J.B. Wells wonders aloud if the DoD intentionally produced the policy to change the religious freedom focus to turbans and beards while keeping “liberal constituencies” like Michael Weinstein “at bay.”
There have been a wide variety of responses to the US military’s update to DODI 1300.17 (accommodating religious freedom), with language that seems to imply a more open attitude toward outward display and expression of religious belief.
The Pentagon reportedly decided to change its policy on religious wear after Major Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi, a Sikh, spoke at a Congressional briefing about the challenges American Sikhs face in the military earlier in January. Kalsi told members of Congress that he believes he can effectively serve his country while still maintaining his religious appearance, including an uncut beard and a turban.
While that may or may not have been a factor, the DoDI clearly includes language from both the 2013 and 2014 National Defense Authorization Acts — that is, requirements levied by Congress, not just reconsideration based on serving Soldiers.
The US Navy appeared to try to quell Read more
The Huffington Post had a photo collection “celebrat[ing] the religious diversity of the military” on Veteran’s Day. Their list:
- US Army Chaplain (1LT) David Frommer, a Jewish chaplain who once wrote about his interactions with Messianic Jews in the military.
- US Army SFC Naida Christian Nova, a Catholic who filed a federal complaint after the Army allegedly refused to relieve her of harassment for her (former) Arabic-sounding name.
- US Army Chaplain Read more
A local article notes the service of Maj. Kamal Kalsi, a US Army doctor granted an exception to policy to allow the wear of a Sikh turban, beard, and other items specific to their faith.
He is one of three Sikh soldiers serving in the U.S. Army, and the only one at Fort Bragg.
Kalsi says he serves because of his love for the United States; his favorite holiday is even July 4th.
Despite the uniqueness of his faith in the Army, he says his similarities with his fellow Soldiers have “outweighed his differences:” Read more
An article by Agence France-Presse, published at Military.com, notes the recent exceptions provided to three Sikh applicants to the US military. An anecdote tells of Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi’s experience in initial training:
On his first day of training at Fort Sam Houston in Texas, a first sergeant pulled [Kalsi] out of the crowd and Read more