April 1, 2016 (Washington D.C.) – Last night, the U.S. military granted a Sikh American officer a long-term religious accommodation allowing him to continue serving his country while maintaining his articles of faith. The landmark decision makes Captain Simratpal Singh, a decorated combat veteran, the first active duty Sikh soldier to receive approval to maintain […]
April 1, 2016 (Washington D.C.) – Last night, the U.S. military granted a Sikh American officer a long-term religious accommodation allowing him to continue serving his country while maintaining his articles of faith. The landmark decision makes Captain Simratpal Singh, a decorated combat veteran, the first active duty Sikh soldier to receive approval to maintain his articles of faith while actively serving in the U.S. Army.
“My military service continues to fulfill a lifelong dream,” said Captain Singh. “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.” Captain Singh will continue in his battalion operations staff position at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia.
Captain Singh graduated from West Point with honors in 2010, but was then forced to make the untenable choice between his religion and his career. Following failed attempts to obtain an accommodation, he cut his hair and shaved his beard. After successfully completing Army Ranger School, a Bronze Star tour in Afghanistan, and receiving numerous other military accolades in various military positions, Captain Singh filed a religious accommodation request on October 21, 2015.
Throughout this process, the Department of Defense made attempts to delay and prohibit his accommodation, including a March 3rd court-denied attempt to subject Captain Singh to unprecedented, prejudiced testing. After this hard-won legal victory, and months after submitting his accommodation request, Captain Singh has finally realized his dream of becoming spiritually whole.
“Captain Singh again proves to our military that the religiously mandated turban and beard do not hinder the ability to successfully serve,” said Sikh Coalition Legal Director, Harsimran Kaur. “This decision gives hope that our nation’s largest employer is making progress towards ending a policy of religious discrimination.”
“Captain Singh’s case is a painful study in the onerous hurdles for observant Sikh Americans who want to serve their country,” said McDermott Will & Emery partner, Amandeep Sidhu. “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.”
“No American should have to face religious discrimination to serve their country—especially not top-notch, battle-tested soldiers like Captain Singh,” said Eric Baxter of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which serves as co-counsel in the case. “We will continue fighting for the right of all Sikh Americans to serve without violating their faith.”
~ Source: Sikh Coalition