Capt. Simratpal Singh is a graduate of West Point, an Army Ranger and a Bronze Star recipient. He also is a practicing Sikh and has won a historic long-term religious accommodation to wear a beard a turban in accordance with his faith.
What makes this so unique is that unlike many Sikhs who ask for the accommodation at the beginning of their service, Singh did so after 10 years of service in which he had no beard and no turban. Singh is being represented by The Sikh Coalition, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and the law firm of McDermott Will & Emery.
Before 1974, members of the military could serve with their articles of faith in tact. However, that all changed with stricter grooming standards which came in 1981.
Singh had this to say in a statement:
“My military service continues to fulfill a lifelong dream. My faith, like many of the soldiers I work with, is an integral part of who I am. I am thankful that I no longer have to make the choice between faith and service to our nation.”
Amandeep Sidhu, partner at McDermott Will & Emery, also issued a statement in which he said:
“Captain Singh’s case is a painful study in the onerous hurdles for observant Sikh Americans who want to serve their country. With this historic accommodation, we hope that the U.S. military will finally move past protracted, case-by-case religious accommodations and recognize that the time for permanent policy change is now.”
Sikhs are often mistaken for muslims but they come from two completely different religions. Here is a brief overview of Sikhism from the BBC:
Sikhism was founded in the 16th century in the Punjab district of what is now India and Pakistan. It was founded by Guru Nanak and is based on his teachings, and those of the 9 Sikh gurus who followed him.
The most important thing in Sikhism is the internal religious state of the individual.
- Sikhism is a monotheistic religion
- Sikhism stresses the importance of doing good actions rather than merely carrying out rituals
- Sikhs believe that the way to lead a good life is to:
- keep God in heart and mind at all times
- live honestly and work hard
- treat everyone equally
- be generous to the less fortunate
- serve others
- The Sikh place of worship is called a Gurdwara
- The Sikh scripture is the Guru Granth Sahib, a book that Sikhs consider a living Guru
The tenth Sikh Guru decreed that after his death the spiritual guide of the Sikhs would be the teachings contained in that book, so the Guru Granth Sahib now has the status of a Guru, and Sikhs show it the respect they would give to a human Guru.
The community of men and women who have been initiated into the Sikh faith is the Khalsa. The Khalsa celebrated its 300th anniversary in 1999.
Guru Gobind Singh decreed that where Sikhs could not find answers in the Guru Granth Sahib, they should decide issues as a community, based on the principles of their scripture.
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