Monday, February 29, 2016

Sikh West Pointer sues

A Sikh graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point has sued the Army over a decision not to afford him permanent permission to wear a beard and turban, as if required of observant members of the Sikh faith. Details here.
The complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia from Capt. Simratpal Singh, a West Point graduate and Bronze Star recipient, comes after the Army signaled it didn't plan to make permanent an accommodation letting him wear a beard and turban, his attorney Eric Baxter said. 
"Capt. Singh had every expectation that the Army would grant his exemption [permanently]," Baxter said in an interview with "And then suddenly on Friday night, he found out he's going to be forced to take extraordinary, nonstandard testing over the course of three days to determine if he's going to have to cut his hair and shave his beard to remain in the Army." 
The service has ordered Singh to report to Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland on Tuesday morning to begin three days of tests to ensure he can safely wear a helmet and gas mask, according to Baxter, an attorney with The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a nonprofit, public interest law firm in Washington, D.C., which specializes in cases dealing with free expression of religious traditions.
To the Editor, who wore a beard (not for religious reasons) for a good part of his three years, seven months and eight days of active duty, this controversy seems unnecessary as well as unfortunate. The photo above, of French Foreign Legion sappers, seems pertinent even though those depicted are presumably not Sikhs. Other photos depict Sikh troops of the UK and India. Would you want to be on the other side from any of these soldiers?

Postscript: New York Times coverage here.

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