(Washington, D.C.) June 23, 2009 - Earlier this month, three Congressional representatives from New York and New Jersey wrote to Defense Secretary Robert Gates on behalf of their Sikh constituents.
In their letters, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen and Congressman Joseph Crowley asked Secretary Gates to allow Sikh soldiers to serve with their articles of faith intact. The Sikh Coalition and the law firm of McDermott Will & Emery worked with each representative to draft and send these requests.
"A Beacon of Hope"
Two separate letters were sent to Secretary Gates - one from Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Congressman Joseph Crowley, members of Captain Tejdeep Rattan's New York delegation and the other from Captain Kamaljeet Kalsi's representative,Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen, from New Jersey.
Both letters asked the Secretary to give full consideration to the soldiers' requests to serve with their articles of faith intact. The letters cited other Sikhs' service in the US Armed Forces and in our allies' militaries to support their argument that these men should be permitted to serve. The Representatives also reminded the Secretary that these requests "implicate[s] one of the most fundamental values - freedom of religion - upon which our nation was founded and which makes the United States a beacon of hope and liberty throughout the world."
Captain Kalsi and Captain Rattan were recruited as part of an Army program that pays for medical education in return for military service. At the time of their enrollment, military recruiters assured both men that their turbans and unshorn hair "would not be a problem." Though both men maintained their Sikh identity throughout graduate school, during specialized Army training, at Army ceremonies, and in Army medical facilities, the Army is now telling them that they will have to forsake their religious practices to serve.
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In the coming days, the Coalition will launch a broader letter of support from Congress to Secretary Gates for these Sikh soldiers. Our goal is to have this letter signed by over 50 Senators and Representatives from around the country and from both sides of the political aisle. Once the letter is launched, we will need the help of every Sikh in America to approach their representatives and ask them to sign on.
We would like to thank the community for supporting this campaign by signing the Army petition,gathering petitions from their local sangats and giving financial support. Your support has reminded our government officials to remain accountable to Sikh community concerns. If you or your organization would like to assist us with the lobbying efforts on this matter, please contact us at email@example.com.
As always, the Sikh Coalition urges all Sikhs to practice their faith fearlessly. If someone tells you to remove your articles of faith, please report the incident.