U.S. military giving troops more leeway for religious clothing, beards

reuters-us-usa-military-tattoos

The Pentagon took steps on Wednesday to give individual troops greater latitude to wear turbans, head scarfs, yarmulkes and other religious clothing with their uniforms, but advocacy groups said the new policy fell short of what they were seeking.

“The military departments will accommodate individual expressions of sincerely held beliefs (conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs) of service members” unless it might affect military readiness or unit cohesion, the updated policy on religious accommodation said.

The policy was mainly expected to affect Sikhs, Muslims, Jews and members of other groups that wear beards or articles of clothing as part of their religion. It also could affect Wiccans and others who may obtain tattoos or piercings for religious reasons.

Lieutenant Commander Nate Christensen, a Pentagon spokesman, said for the first time the Defense Department’s policy encouraged acceptance in the military of beards, long hair and articles of clothing worn for religious reasons so long as they do not interfere with good order and discipline.

A service member who wants to wear a beard or article of clothing for religious reasons must seek permission, or an accommodation, from the military. The Pentagon previously made only a small number of accommodations to its uniform policy to enable Sikhs to wear turbans.

Advocacy groups expressed concern that the updated policy does little to protect Sikhs and others from the whims of their commanders.

Amardeep Singh, a spokesman for the Sikh Coalition, said it was the first time the Pentagon had indicated it was willing to accommodate long hair grown for religious purposes.

Noting that the religious accommodation would have to be approved each time a service member changed assignments, Singh said, “What is disappointing … is that the presumptive bar on the Sikh articles of faith remains.

“So a Sikh can’t just sort of enlist in the U.S. military and expect that they won’t down the line have to make the false choice between their faith and their service to the country,” he said.

Army Corporal Simranpreet Lamba, one of only three currently serving observant Sikhs to have received permission to keep their hair and turban, said the updated policy was a small step in the right direction.

“I really appreciate that the Army has looked into the matter and tried to add something, but at the same time it doesn’t provide any kind of accommodation for all the Sikhs who want to join,” he said.

Lamba said it took him nine months to receive permission to keep his hair, beard and turban and he has not had problems with the accommodation in his 3.5 years in the service.

He said he uses a thin turban like a bandana while wearing a helmet, and has been able to get an effective seal with his gas mask despite his beard, a common concern for people with beards in the military.

Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said he welcomed any move to broaden religious accommodation in the U.S. military.

“We’ve dealt with this issue on a number of occasions, whether it was with beards or with head scarfs or even in support of the Sikh community on the issue of turbans and skullcaps for the Jewish military personnel,” he said.

“I’d have to see how it’s carried out in practice,” Hooper said. “If it’s subject to the whim of individual commanders that becomes problematic because that’s what we’ve seen in the past – some are allowed, some are denied.”

 


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Memorial held for Sean Collier, MIT police officer…

More than 1,600 people gathered at MIT on Friday for a memorial service for Sean Collier, the police officer shot to death a year ago in the aftermath of the…

National

Florida man charged with murdering son to play…

A Florida man annoyed that his 16-month-old crying son was preventing him from playing video games suffocated the toddler, police said on Friday.

International

Powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattles Mexico

A powerful earthquake struck Mexico Friday, shaking buildings and sending people running into the street, although there were no reports of major damage.

News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox defeat Orioles, 4-2

Brock Holt the difference in the Red Sox' win

NHL

NHL video highlights & analysis: Red Wings dump…

NHL video highlights & analysis: Red Wings dump Bruins in Game 1

MLB

MLB video highlights: Orioles top Red Sox, 8-4…

John Lackey roughed up for second straight outing

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox score two in…

Lester shines in Red Sox win over White Sox

Parenting

How to parent without gender stereotypes in a…

Christia Spears Brown, Phd. author of "Parenting beyond Pink & Blue" gives advice on raising kids free of gender stereotypes.

Tech

VIDEO: 'Vein-scanning' may become the future of paying

Designed to make transactions quicker and easier, the technology works by scanning the unique vein patterns in each person's palm.

Tech

#FollowFriday: 10 of the smartest Twitter accounts

Spending lots of time on Twitter? You might as well learn something. Here are some of the smartest accounts to follow.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.