December 23, 2022 (Washington, DC) — Today marks another historic step towards ending religious discrimination by every U.S. employer. The District of Columbia Court of Appeals is allowing two Sikh men to begin serving in the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) with their articles of faith, and has referred the case of a third Sikh man for reconsideration by the U.S. District Court. This significant victory is anticipated to have positive effects on the Sikh Coalition and our partners’ wider lawsuit against the USMC and ultimately against all discrimination that prevents Sikhs from maintaining their articles of faith in their profession.
On April 11, 2022, the Sikh Coalition, Winston & Strawn, the Becket Fund and BakerHostetler, with support from the Sikh American Veterans Alliance (SAVA), filed suit against the U.S. Department of Defense on behalf of four clients: USMC Captain (Capt) Sukhbir Singh Toor and pre-accession Marine recruits Mr. Milaap Singh Chahal, Mr. Aekash Singh, and Mr. Jaskirat Singh. One component of that lawsuit was a push to allow Mr. Chahal, Mr. Singh, and Mr. Singh to maintain their articles of faith while in training–something that was prohibited by the USMC in all three men’s limited religious accommodations. Today’s injunction by the Court of Appeals will allow Mr. Chahal and Mr. Jaskirat Singh to immediately proceed to USMC Recruit Training with their articles of faith. Because Mr. Aekash Singh plans to attend Officer Candidate School rather than Recruit Training, the Court of Appeals ordered his case to be reconsidered by the District Court.
“Our clients are finally out of the ‘legal limbo’ that has barred them from their chosen careers for more than two years,” said Giselle Klapper, Sikh Coalition Senior Staff Attorney. “The simple truth is that articles of faith pose no barrier to effective job performance–not in the USMC, nor anywhere else across the public and private sectors.”
To date, the Sikh Coalition, SAVA, and our partners have helped more than 50 Sikh Americans in the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force secure their accommodations; after 12 years of advocacy and legal action–and major policy changes to facilitate religious accommodations in the U.S. Army in 2017 and the U.S. Air Force in 2020–more than 100 Sikh soldiers and airmen serve with their articles of faith and are able to stay safe while doing so, both at home and abroad. You can read a timeline of major developments in this campaign here.
The Sikh Coalition and our partners will continue to provide updates on this case–including an eventual ruling on Capt Toor’s own limited accommodation–in the weeks ahead as the legal process continues to take shape.
As always, the Sikh Coalition urges you to practice your faith fearlessly.