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Sikh Army Captain Wins Ability To Serve With His Beard And Turban

Capt. Simratpal Singh, a decorated Sikh-American officer and combat veteran, recently won the ability to serve in the U.S. Army with long hair, a beard, and turban in accordance with his Sikh faith.

In December, Singh — a West Point graduate, Army Ranger, and Bronze Star recipient — received a temporary accommodation to serve in the military with his articles of faith. According to The Sikh Coalition, which is representing Singh with The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and the law firm of McDermott Will & Emery, Singh is the first Sikh American to receive religious accommodation while already actively serving in the U.S. Army.

In March, a U.S. district judge issued a temporary restraining order against additional non-standard, discriminatory testing. In a statement Singh said, "My military service continues to fulfill a lifelong dream. My faith, like many of the soldiers I work with, is an integral part of who I am. I am thankful that I no longer have to make the choice between faith and service to our nation."

Previously, Singh had served in the U.S. Army for over 10 years with short hair and no beard or turban.

Amandeep Sidhu, partner at McDermott Will & Emery, said in a statement, "Captain Singh's case is a painful study in the onerous hurdles for observant Sikh Americans who want to serve their country. With this historic accommodation, we hope that the U.S. military will finally move past protracted, case-by-case religious accommodations and recognize that the time for permanent policy change is now."

Before 1974, Sikh Americans were allowed to serve in the U.S. military with their articles of faith intact. Since 1981, stricter grooming regulations have required requests for religious accommodation on a case-by-case basis. According to Singh's team, around 50,000 U.S. soldiers have permanent beard exemptions for medical reasons.

Photo: Youtube

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