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US military relaxes uniform rules for religious items
10 months ago

Army Captain Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi in New York, New York, on 14 September 2010

Sikh soldiers such as Army Cpt Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi, photographed in 2010,

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may receive religious dispensations to wear head coverings and facial hair

The US military is easing its uniform rules to allow religious wear including turbans, skullcaps, beards and tattoos, officials have said.

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Muslim, Sikh, Jewish and Wiccan soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen can now request exemptions to strict military uniform and grooming policies.

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Requests will be evaluated individually and can be denied if they hinder military readiness.

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Previously, at least three Sikhs had won specific accommodation.

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'A step forward'

Service members' requests for a religious accommodation will be weighed on a case-by-case basis to ensure they do not impact "mission accomplishment, unit cohesion, and good order and discipline", Lt Cmdr Nate Christensen told the BBC.

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And appeals to be allowed to wear beards or special apparel, for example, may be denied if they hinder the safe operation of weapons or military equipment, such as helmets or protective masks.

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An accommodation will only apply to the service member's current assignment, requiring him or her to obtain new exemptions with every transfer, according to a copy the policy directive obtained by the BBC.

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The new policy, in effect on Wednesday, will extend to all religions recognised by the US military across all branches.

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The US military counts nearly 3,700 Muslims and 1,500 Wiccans among its ranks, according to statistics reported by NBC News, but it remains unclear how many will apply for dispensations.

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"We don't know how many requests we will get," Lt Cmdr Christensen said. "No two requests are going to be the same."

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Amardeep Singh, co-founder of the Sikh Coalition, an advocacy group, described the new Pentagon measure as "a step forward" but said it still represented uncertainty for Sikh Americans, whose religion requires men to wear turbans, beards and long hair.

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"What is the incentive to enlist when there's such little clarity if you'll be accommodated," he asked.

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"It's absolutely progress that the military is stating a commitment to protecting religious liberty... However, it's clear that we have a long way to go."

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http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-25853546

10 months ago

This is not a new thing for the US military, just a new group of people to be considered.  They have, over the years, had to make this concession other times.  An example is the members of the LDS Church that wear special items of clothing and their need for special consideration from the military to use these items rather than the regulation approved items.  There are other examples of this as well.  

Again, nothing new and to some extent we have to realize that if we are going to allow Sikh to join our military we have to make consessions for them as well.  

We have also had to make concessions for women in the military; it is obvious that they have to consider as well.  At one time they could not have long hair but now that is allowed if kept in a manner that does not interfer with their performance of their duties.  They don't have to have their hair shaved off when they arrive at boot camp either.  So, again, this is not really anything new; just a new set of people requiring concessions.

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