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Interfaith Coalition to Pentagon: New Religion Guidelines Still Discriminate

For Immediate Release
Rajdeep Singh, (202) 747-4944, rajdeep@sikhcoalition.org

April 2, 2014 (Washington, DC) – In a show of unity, 21 national faith and interfaith organizations that occasionally disagree on religious liberty issues jointly sent a letter to the Department of Defense today to highlight discriminatory loopholes in the Pentagon’s new religious accommodation guidelines.

According to the letter, which was signed by the Sikh Coalition, the new guidelines require service members to violate their religion while accommodation requests are pending (a Catch-22) and repeatedly apply for temporary waivers. The letter states that these “stifling” requirements “may needlessly limit career opportunities – or, in some cases, end careers.”

Click here to read the letter.

“The Sikh Coalition is grateful to its partners in the interfaith community for uniting in support of equal opportunity in the U.S. Armed Forces,” said Rajdeep Singh, Director of Law and Policy for the Sikh Coalition. “If a service member can graduate from boot camp and successfully perform his or her military duties, their religion alone shouldn’t be a barrier to serving our country.”

Since the Pentagon began restricting the ability of Sikhs to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces in 1981, only three Sikhs – Maj. Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi, Capt. Tejdeep Singh Rattan, and Cpl. Simran Preet Singh Lamba – have received permission to serve in the U.S. Army while maintaining their articles of faith.

Despite their achievements, including promotions, awards, and two successful deployments to Afghanistan, their religious accommodations are neither permanent nor guaranteed under the new guidelines, must be constantly renewed, and can be taken away at any time, even shortly before retirement. Because of the new guidelines, current and future Sikh service members may also be required to remove their turbans, cut their hair, and shave their beards in violation of their religion while their accommodation requests are pending.
 

The Sikh Coalition is the nation’s leading Sikh American advocacy organization. To learn more about our five-year campaign in partnership with the law firm McDermott Will & Emery to secure equal opportunity for Sikhs in the U.S. Armed Forces, please visit our website at http://www.sikhcoalition.org. For media inquiries, please contact Rajdeep Singh at (202) 747-4944 or rajdeep@sikhcoalition.org.

 

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About the Sikh Coalition

The Sikh Coalition is a community-based organization that works towards the realization of civil and human rights for all people. In particular, we work towards a world where Sikhs may freely practice and enjoy their faith while fostering strong relations with their local community wherever they may be.

We pursue our mission by:

  • Providing direct legal services to persons whose civil or human rights are violated;
  • Advocating for law and policies that are respectful of fundamental rights;
  • Promoting appreciation for diversity through education; and
  • Fostering civic engagement in order to promote local community empowerment

With a full-time staff of 10 and offices in New York City, Fremont, CA and Washington D.C., we are the most-staffed Sikh organization in the history of the United States.

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