The Pentagon announced Wednesday that turbans, beards, and certain religious body art will now be permitted within the military for specific religious practices. The new policy also acknowledges and approves some religious preferences that are not related to physical appearance.
Stars and Stripes reported, “The requests for religious accommodation should “reflect sincerely held beliefs” and not damage military readiness, unit cohesion or good order and discipline, according to a revised Defense Department instruction on accommodation of religious practices.”
“The policy has its limits, but is designed to allow troops free expression of their religion, as required by Congress in the 2013 National Defense Authorization act, a spokesman said. Jews, Sikhs and Muslims in the military are among those who in recent years have sought greater latitude in order to comply with their religions.”
“When requests for accommodation are made, the needs of the requesting servicemember are balanced against the needs of mission accomplishment,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Christensen wrote in an email. “Only if it is determined that the needs of mission accomplishment outweigh the needs of the servicemember may the request be denied.”
Special accommodations for religious practices such as prayers required throughout the day will still be at the discretion of the commander and will be handled through the chain of command. Wearing headgear and beards will still require waives by military department secretaries.
Reaction to the Pentagon’s new policy has created quite the mixture of reactions on both sides of the issue. Some are considerably appreciative and welcoming of the new policy change, while other feel this goes against decades of military standards and tradition.