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New Case Highlights Pentagon’s Failure To Resolve Religious Discrimination

For Immediate Release

 

Press Contact: Mark Reading-Smith

Media & Communications Director, The Sikh Coalition

Mark@sikhcoalition.org, 202-380-8489

 

January 29, 2014 (Washington D.C.) – One year after the House Armed Services Committee held its first hearing on the Pentagon’s updated religious accommodation guidelines, the Sikh Coalition and pro bono legal partner, McDermott, Will & Emery LLP, sent a letter to the Pentagon today, outlining the plight of Taranbir Singh, who has been subjected to nearly two years of hurdles and denied the right to serve in the U.S. Army because of his religion.

The letter details numerous examples of Mr. Singh taking the mandated steps to meet the requirements for enlisting over two years, points to the ongoing procedural flaws in the process, and highlights what the Sikh Coalition predicted last year – that the new guidelines that were touted by the military as a “fix” to the problem, instead allow the Department of Defense to continue its ban on Sikhs who maintain their articles of faith.

Mr. Singh’s case is unique in that his enrollment request started nearly two years ago and spans the time before and after the guidelines change went into effect. While the Pentagon has provided no clarity on his case, Mr. Singh has remained steadfast in his commitment to join the U.S. Army.

“This ban forces me to choose between my religion and my desire to serve and protect this nation. That’s a false choice, and despite the numerous roadblocks that the military has thrown in my way, I refuse to believe that it’s a choice I should ever have to make,” said Mr. Singh.

Since 2009, three Sikh Coalition clients have received rare permission to serve in the U.S. Army while wearing turbans and unshorn hair, including beards. All three have won awards and promotions for their service, which included two successful deployments to Afghanistan, and all three have been able to comply with safety requirements for helmets and gas masks. Sikhs are permitted to practice their faith in the militaries of Canada and the United Kingdom, among others.

Last year, the Pentagon issued new religious accommodation guidelines, but critics have pointed out that these guidelines contain loopholes, including a Catch-22 that requires Sikhs to violate their religion while an accommodation request is pending.

“Sikh Americans have proven time and again that they can succeed in the military,” said Rajdeep Singh, Senior Director of Law and Policy for the Sikh Coalition. “The Pentagon has a responsibility to resolve Taranbir’s case swiftly and end its culture of exclusion that runs counter to our values as a nation.”

To schedule an interview with Taranbir Singh, other military clients, or any number of our legal and policy experts that have been working on this issue for years, please contact Mark Reading-Smith. To learn more about the multi-year campaign or to simply receive more background material, please click here or contact Mark.

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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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