Sikh Captain Sues US Army To Grow Beard, Wear Turban


U.S. Army Capt. Simratpal Singh has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Defense to be able to grow his beard and wear his turban on a permanent basis without having to undergo a series of tests.

"Capt. Singh seeks a religious accommodation for his Sikh articles of faith so that he can continue serving on the same footing as all other soldiers," Harsimran Kaur, The Sikh Coalition's legal director, told NBC News.

The U.S. Army gave Singh a 30-day temporary permission for his turban and beard on Dec. 9, 2015, which was extended until March 31, 2016, but Singh was reportedly told to undergo non-standard testing on March 1 to stay in the service.

"Singling out a Sikh officer to submit to a battery of tests -- that aren't given to the thousands of others soldiers with similar medical and religious accommodations -- is discriminatory, un-American and unconstitutional," Kaur added.

Singh has served in the military for more than a decade with short hair and no beard.

“A true Sikh is supposed to stand out, so he can defend those who cannot defend themselves,” Singh told The New York Times in December 2015. “I see that very much in line with the Army values.”

Eric Baxter, an attorney at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents Singh, said in a Feb. 29 press release: "Captain Singh is a decorated war hero. The Army should be trying to get more soldiers like him, not banning them from serving or punishing them for their beliefs. It’s time for the Pentagon to stop playing games and start doing the right thing -- for Captain Singh, for Sikh Americans, and for all Americans.”

Sources: NBC News, The Becket Fund for Religious LibertyThe New York Times / Photo credit: Harkanwal Singh via Wikimedia

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