Crowley Leads Over 100 Members of Congress In Calling on Defense Department to Welcome Sikh Americans in Military

C/o Congressman Joe Crowley.

Bronx and Queens Congressman Joe Crowley and Republican NJ Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen led a major bipartisan coalition of over 100 Members of Congress on Monday, sending a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel urging the Department to end the presumptive ban on Sikh Americans serving in the United States military.

Captain Tejdeep Singh Rattan, a dentist, was granted a historic religious accommodation by the U.S. Army to maintain his Sikh turban. Photo c/o  sikhcoalition.org

Specifically, the members requested that the U.S. Armed Forces update their appearance regulations to once again allow Sikh Americans to serve while abiding by their articles of faith, such as wearing a turban or beard. 

In the last 30 years, three Sikh Americans have been granted an accommodation, or permission, to serve in the U.S. Army while maintaining their articles of faith, and they may even be required to remove their articles of faith while their accommodation request is pending.

Sikhs have served in the U.S. Army since World War I, and they are presumptively permitted to serve in the armed forces of America’s NATO allies Canada and the United Kingdom, as well as key partner India. Notably, the current Chief of Army Staff of the Indian Army is a turbaned and bearded Sikh.

The three Sikh Americans who have been granted individualized accommodations to serve in the U.S. Army wear turbans and maintain beards in a neat and conservative manner, both in accordance with operational requirements and their Sikh religious beliefs. They are also able to wear protective equipment, including helmets and gas masks, in conformity with safety requirements.

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