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Legal US Rights Body Asks Hagel To Explain 'Army Bias' Against Sikhs

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US rights body asks Hagel to explain 'Army bias' against Sikhs

A US commission has asked defence secretary Chuck Hagel to explain the exclusion of Sikhs, known for their valour and pride, from the American armed forces.

In a letter, the US Commission on Civil Rights requested Hagel to justify a department of defence policy that appears to presumptively exclude Sikh Americans from serving in the US armed forces if they do not give up certain articles of their faith, or unless an individual accommodation is granted.

Established in 1957, the federal commission is charged with the responsibility to investigate, report on, and make recommendations concerning civil rights issues that face the US.

Simran Lamba, centre, is the first enlisted Soldier to be granted a religious accommodation for his Sikh articles of faith since 1984, and one of only three Sikhs in the US army

Simran Lamba, centre, is the first enlisted Soldier to be granted a religious accommodation for his Sikh articles of faith since 1984, and one of only three Sikhs in the US army

In its letter dated December 3, which was released on Monday, the commission said the current US military regulations generally prohibit the wearing of religious headgear and maintaining other religious requirements such as unshorn hair and beards.

The letter acknowledges the legitimate concerns of the military about service member safety and military necessity, but expresses concern over the apparent deterrent effect of such regulations on participation by affected groups in the US Army.

"The privilege of serving one's country should not be denied to a person for adhering to his or her religious beliefs," commission chairman Martin R. Castro said.

The Commission wrote to Hagel months after Major Kamaldeep Singh Kalsi - a Sikh who had received a personal accommodation, or exception, from the Army's policy - in a briefing helped the commission understand the exclusionary impact of the military's policy on Sikh Americans service members.

To date, only two other Sikh Americans have joined Major Kalsi in serving in armed forces - Captains Tajdeep Rataan and Simranpreet Singh Lamba.

Read more:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/indiahome/indianews/article-2521555/US-rights-body-asks-Hagel-explain-Army-bias-Sikhs.html#ixzz2nClCLeib
 

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spnadmin

1947-2014 (Archived)
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Preceding the story

U.S. Commission On Civil Rights Releases Letter To Department Of Defense On Religious Rights Of Sikhs In The Military

WASHINGTON, Dec. 9, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The United States Commission on Civil Rights, by majority vote, has asked the U. S. Department of Defense for a response to the Commission's concerns about the military's possible violation of civil rights of adherents to religious obligations of Sikhs and other religions.


Testimony entered into the record during a Commission briefing show that military regulations generally prohibit the wearing of religious headgear and maintaining other religious requirements such as unshorn hair and beards. The Commission's letter acknowledges the legitimate concerns of the military relating to service member safety and military necessity, but expresses concern over the apparent deterrent effect of such regulations on participation by affected religious group members in our armed forces.

The Commission's letter also points to the burdensome procedures imposed on military members who wish to obtain an exemption from such regulations, which have in the past included submitting a petition signed by many thousands of people and securing the support of dozens of members of Congress.

Commission Chairman Martin R. Castro stated, "The privilege of serving one's country should not be denied a person for adhering to his or her religious beliefs. We look forward to a constructive dialogue with the Secretary of Defense to ensure that Sikh Americans, and others, may serve without sacrificing their faith."

The Commission's letter asks the Department of Defense to provide the Commission with views on these regulations and the possible exclusion of Sikh and other Americans from service in the armed forces of this country based on their religious beliefs.

Contact:
Lenore Ostrowsky
Acting Chief
Public Affairs Unit
(202) 376-8591
 

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