Matthew Cox at Military.com reports the US Army has granted 60 religious accommodations to Sikhs entering the service, most recently to 14 high schoolers who will soon enlist:
Army Lt. Col. Kamal Kalsi, who is the president of the non-profit advocacy group that promotes Sikhism and military service, was surprised to learn there are 13 other high school students who will be allowed to enlist in the Army and openly serve as Sikhs.
This is a new milestone, he said.
“It shows progress,” Kalsi told Military.com, adding that he has been involved in this effort since he was granted the first such accommodation in 2009. “I was the first to get the accommodation for turban and beard way back in the day.”
Kalsi, who is also president and Read more
SSgt Abdul Rahman Gaitan has become the first US Air Force Airman to obtain a religious exemption to grow a beard in uniform:
The biggest challenge yet, was getting approval for his shaving waiver from Air Force Headquarters. This required endorsement by the unit commander, base chaplain, installation commander up to the Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff, Personnel Division. This process took Gaitan almost four years to accomplish.
Interestingly, the article explains Gaitan was actually Catholic, but he apparently became disenchanted with the lack of authenticity in the liturgical faith — and he was drawn to the seeming sincerity of Islam he saw in locals while stationed in Turkey.
With the beard openly displaying his religion, Gaitan says Read more
Newly commissioned 2LT Kanwar Singh has become the most recent US Army officer to wear a turban and beard, the articles of his Sikh faith: Read more
In an interesting deviation from its prior statements on accommodating religion, the US Military Academy at West Point has apparently required two observant Sikh cadets to wear their ceremonial uniform cover — known as the “tar bucket” — “over or in place of” their turban. The cadets, Gurijuwan Singh Chahal and Arjan Singh Ghotra, maintain this “would desecrate their religious values” and have filed a lawsuit in response:
“Forcing New Cadet Chahal and New Cadet Ghotra to choose between their country and their God in this manner violates the Army’s own regulations, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, and the First and Fifth Amendments to the United States Constitution,” the complaint states.
(Arjan Singh Ghotra previously enlisted Read more
In an interesting piece at Military.com, US Navy PO2 Guldeep “Geena” Kaur Sidhu describes what it’s like to be a Sikh woman serving in the US military, noting:
In today’s politically charged and increasingly globalized world, it’s more important than ever to be open to the beliefs and cultures of those around you.
Kaur notes there is virtue in promoting and highlighting religious liberty and the values of religious belief:
I believe that it will lead us to greater unity. By better understanding the identities of our brothers and sisters in arms, we can become closer as a unified force. I hope that the changes brought about by this new directive will serve to educate my fellow service members on the Sikh religion, and how closely it aligns with the American values we’re fighting for day in and day out.
As has been noted in the past, there has been Read more
In 2012, then-US Army Major Ray Bradley complained that he was a humanist but was unable to put “humanist” in his military records as his “religion” in his military records (and reflected on his dog tags).
In 2014, the US Army added “humanist” to the list of faith codes.
In a new memo dated 27 March 2017 (PDF), the DoD Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs published a change that established standardized DoD-wide faith codes across the force — including “Humanist.”
For his part, Bradley had originally envisioned the recognition as the first step to achieving “lay leader” status as a humanist (with humanist “chaplain” to follow). That’s the same conclusion for which Jason Torpy pined when his MAAF reported on this new memo.
Kimberly Winston of the Religion News Service — sitting Read more
“When Army leaders or other government officials fail to protect the rights of Sikh soldiers, Muslim prisoners and other religious minorities, they weaken the rights of everyone, [said Douglas Laycock, a distinguished professor of law at the University of Virginia.].
“Religious freedom is an all-or-nothing proposition. The arguments the government makes in cases about Sikhs and Muslims, and the judicial precedents it establishes when it wins, are fully available to use against Christians,” he said.
The same holds true in reverse, of course: The judicial Read more
For Kalsi, wearing his “religious uniform” with his military uniform provides him confidence as a soldier.
“I know that my faith makes me a better soldier,” the lieutenant colonel said. “It makes me stronger, it makes me more resilient and it sustains me in ways that I would have a hard time explaining.”
The Stars and Stripes recently noted a surge in waivers for observant Sikhs to serve in the US military while retaining the outward symbols of their faith:
Eight Sikh Army recruits have received waivers this year allowing them to maintain their religiously mandated beards and turbans in uniform, nearly doubling the number of observant Sikhs in the Army despite a decades-old policy barring visual symbols of faith.
The success of Sikh adherents publicly exercising their religious faith in uniform has befuddled Michael “Mikey” Weinstein — the self-proclaimed Read more