National Sikh Campaign Praises Army’s new religious accommodation rules


Washington, DC- The National Sikh Campaign, a think tank that studies messaging & communications strategies that promotes a better understanding of the Sikh community in America, welcomes the new regulations from the U.S. Army and the Obama Administration that will make it much easier for Sikh Americans and other religious minorities to serve their nation with their articles of faith.

The directive signed by the Secretary of the Army, Eric Fanning, does two things:

  • Revises Army uniform and grooming policy to permit the wear of beards, turbans, and hijabs
  • Revises the approval authority for religious accommodations from the U.S. Army Secretary or the Secretary’s Designee to Brigade-level Commanders

Religious accommodations will be granted unless a Brigade-level Commander determines that the request is not based on a sincerely held religious belief or identifies a hazard with the accommodation.

“Today, and for the last 500 years, many Sikhs around the world have worn the turban
to signal their commitment to protect all people against injustice, regardless of faith, gender, caste, or color. This commitment represents values at the heart of the American ethic. This announcement by the Army will ensure that Sikh Americans with their articles of faith no longer have to choose between expressing their commitment to defend equality and servicing their country” said Dr. Rajwant Singh, the senior advisor to the National Sikh Campaign.

For more than two years, the National Sikh Campaign engaged with the most senior staff at the White House on this issue. Dozens of meetings, calls, and emails were exchanged with Valarie Jarrett and the White House Office of Faith Partnerships. In addition to engagement with the Adminstration, NSC made sure that the issue was a priority for Members of Congress as well. Through various avenues, the issue remained important and fresh for staffers and their bosses. Melissa Rogers and Cecelia Munoz had also visited Sikh Gurdwaras last year and had informed the community of their continued efforts of working with the Department of Defence to revise these regulations.

Jas Sajjan, Policy Director for the National Sikh Campaign said: “We would like to thank Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning and President Obama for not only welcoming suggestions and guidance by Sikh service members and Sikh American organizations but for actually acting on it. While there is still much progress to be made, today’s announcement will be instrumental in our effort to allow all Americans to fight for this country while still celebrating one of its finest ideals — religious freedom.”

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About National Sikh Campaign
The National Sikh Campaign is helping to build the image of Sikhism in America and highlight the impact Sikh Americans have made. The aim of the campaign is to create an environment of mutual acceptance in which Sikhs don’t have to hide their articles of faith and lay the foundation for more Sikh Americans to become leaders. Learn more here:

Read about the Army Directive for Religious Accommodation here

The Hill reports:

The new rules, detailed in an Army memo dated Tuesday and released Wednesday by the Sikh groups, allow for religious accommodations to be approved at the brigade-level, instead of the secretary-level.

The decision to allow brigade-level commanders to grant exemption was made “based on the successful examples of Soldiers currently serving with these accommodations,” according to the memo from Army Secretary Eric Fanning.

The new rules also ensure the accommodation is enduring.

“The accommodation will continue throughout the Soldier’s career and may not be permanently revoked or modified unless authorized by me or my designee,” the memo says.

The new rules apply to all religious accommodation requests, with the memo highlighting the most common requests are for hijabs, beards, turbans, under-turbans/patkas and uncut hair.

Shawn Singh Ghuman
[email protected]

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