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Three Sikh soldiers file lawsuit against US Defence Department

Three Sikh soldiers file lawsuit against US Defence Department pardesi news 1460398168

Three Sikh soldiers have filed a lawsuit against the Department of Defence, seeking to serve in the US armed forces without being forced to flaunt their articles of faith, they have been waiting for months to hear if their requests for religious accommodation will be resolved by basic training in May, 2016 failing which they have now approached court.

The US military has recently tried to become increasingly inclusive, allowing even the gay men and lesbians to serve openly, and women to serve in combat roles. But it has held a stiff line on uniforms and the grooming standards and the Sikh organizations feel that are at the receiving for wrong and unjust reasons.  

Reacting, the Three US Sikh soldiers, Specialist Kanwar Singh, Specialist Harpal Singh and Private Arjan Singh Ghotra have filed a lawsuit against the Department of Defence, seeking to serve in the US armed forces without being forced to flaunt their articles of faith such as turbans, unshorn hair and beards.  Three Sikh US soldiers have approached court saying they have been waiting for months to hear if their requests for religious accommodation will be resolved by basic training in May, 2016.

Specialist Kanwar Singh who enlisted in the Massachusetts Army National Guard, said the men would like the chance, like every other American soldier, to proudly serve. Harpal Singh was recruited by the US Army Reserve for his foreign language skills, and Arjan Singh Ghotra, 17, who enlisted in the Virginia Army National Guard is slated to attend basic training before attending George Mason University this fall.

These US Sikh soldiers are being represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, McDermott Will & Emery, and the Sikh Coalition, after the defence department ignored a written demand letter sent on March 23. Their legal director, Ms. Harsimran Kaur, told that the Army has been failing to make decisions on whether these patriotic Sikhs will be able to serve their country while abiding by the presumption of their faith. In doing so, the Army is violating their constitutional and statutory rights. “The men are asking to wear turbans, keep their beards, and refrain from cutting their hair, and the lead plaintiff has been waiting for an answer for more than seven months”, the Sikh Coalition said.

The three organizations also represented the decorated Sikh-American soldier Captain Simratpal Singh, who recently won a temporary restraining order March 4 against additional non-standard, discriminatory testing.

According to the Sikh Coalition, 27 retired US generals, 15 US senators, 105 US representatives, and 21 national interfaith and civil rights organizations have expressed their support of Sikh Americans' right to serve in the US and have called on the department to eliminate the ban on observant Sikhs.

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Patrick Callahan

Pardesi News Reporter

Pardesi News Reporter

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