Three Sikh-American soldiers have filed suit against the U.S. Department of Defense, according to The Sikh Coalition.
As documented in the lawsuit, Specialist Kanwar Singh, Specialist Harpal Singh, and Private Arjan Singh Ghotra say they want the right to keep their turban, unshorn hair, and beard intact in accordance with their Sikh faith while serving in the U.S.military.
“Three Sikhs filed suit against the Army to ensure that their requests for religious accommodation are resolved by their basic training ship dates in May,” Harsimran Kaur, The Sikh Coalition’s legal director, said in an interview with NBC News. “The lead plaintiff has been waiting over seven months. The Army has been failing to make decisions on whether these patriotic Sikhs will be able serve their country while abiding by the tenets of their faith. In doing so, the Army is violating their constitutional and statutory rights.”
The plaintiffs, who are represented by The Sikh Coalition, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, and McDermott Will & Emery, say they sought legal action so that they can begin basic combat training with their units in May.
“We believe that the court will find that the Army is continuing to discriminate against observant Sikhs, and will enjoin the Army to allow the Sikh plaintiffs to serve with articles of faith intact,” said Kaur.
Prior to 1974, Sikh Americans were allowed to serve in the U.S. military with what the refer to as their articles of faith intact. However, since 1981, stricter grooming regulations have required requests for religious accommodation on a case-by-case basis.
According to the Army Times, since 2010 at least four Sikh soldiers have been permitted to keep their long hair and beards and wear their turbans while in service.