The Problem

The U.S. military—the nation’s largest employer—continues to discriminate against Sikh Americans who wear turbans and maintain unshorn hair and beards. Most Americans who want to serve in our nation’s military sign up for boot camp and are allowed to rise or fall on their merits. In contrast, visibly observant Sikh Americans must submit to a convoluted process for requesting a religious accommodation, which is neither permanent nor guaranteed, and which ignores the fact that Sikhs are able to meet safety and operational requirements in the U.S. Army and militaries throughout the world while maintaining their articles of faith.

The Solution

The Sikh Coalition believes that all Americans deserve an equal opportunity to serve in all branches of our nation’s armed forces. If the nation’s largest employer accepts Sikhs, this will make it harder for employers everywhere to discriminate against our community. The Pentagon’s existing policies are based on stereotypes about what Americans should look like. Instead of perpetuating stereotypes, policymakers should focus on whether candidates for military service can competently perform their job functions and promote teamwork and camaraderie.

  • successful religious accommodations
  • Generals support the Sikh right to serve
  • lawmakers support the Sikh right to serve

Impact

Following in the footsteps of the African American, women’s rights, and LGBT communities, the Sikh Coalition continues to systematically remove barriers that prevent Sikhs from serving in the U.S. military. Our campaign has been endorsed by 27 retired generals and over 100 bipartisan members of the U.S. Congress. In addition, a federal court agreed with our position when we filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Army in partnership with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and the law firm of McDermott Will & Emery. As a result of our efforts, the U.S. Army has granted religious accommodations to fourteen Sikh Americans, and significantly improved its process for granting religious accommodations. We will continue our campaign until being a Sikh is no longer a barrier to serving in any branch of our nation’s military.

How You Can Help

If you know of a Sikh American applying for military service, please have them reach out to the Sikh Coalition’s legal team.