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Turban charging the U.S. Military
Political Perspective by Tim King Salem-News.com
Includes the full Department of Defense news release...
Sikh Doctor, U.S. Army Captain Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi
(SALEM) - New rules about uniform appearance could greatly impact the future look of the U.S. military. The Pentagon says members of the armed services can now seek waivers to wear religious clothing, engage in religious practices, and seek prayer time.
The new policy took effect Wednesday, and the waivers will be decided on a case-by-case basis. Defense Dept. officials say approval of the waiver will depend on where the service member is stationed. Also considered, is whether the change would affect military readiness or the mission.
Conservative Americans are reacting sharply to the news that turbans, beards, tattoos and other symbols of non Christian religious origin will be tolerated by the U.S. military.
FOX News, in the video below, has your typical anti-Muslim paranoia. One of them complains about how Wiccan people will be able to observe their religion too. What else is new? The right wing network's hosts and guests are practically spitting.
Taking a less paranoid approach, The Associated Press wrote, "Until now there has been no consistent policy across the military services to allow accommodations for religion. Now, for example, Jewish troops will be able to seek a waiver to wear a yarmulke, or Sikhs can seek waivers to wear a turban and grow a beard."
Personally, I think somebody needs to remind these media personalities that this country was founded on the basis of freedom of religion and those who disagree are standing against the very principle of what this whole country is about.
There are massive unaddressed problems in this country; NSA eavesdropping, drones killing civilians and eroding all popular support of the Afghan war, political efforts to aid jihadist rebels in Syria, feds providing guns to Mexican cartels, four million dollars in U.S. taxpayer money shipped to Israel every day... these issues threaten all of us and they are everywhere. Veterans are treated like garbage when then are done serving their country. I don't think a member of the military wearing a turban is going to upset the balance too much.
This is how it is done places like India; some members of the military wear turbans and some don't. Also remember that a turban does not represent any particular religion.
Turbans are worn by people with multiple religious affiliations like Muslims, Sikhs, Rastafarians, and even a Christian church in Kenya known as the Akurinu. The turban has also been purely a cultural item in the past, but is now generally worn for religious reasons.
Also, nobody on FOX seems to know that the U.S. Navy has allowed beards at different times, including the time period when I served in the Marines, in the 1980's. Navy Corpsman with the Marines even wore beards while wearing Marine uniforms.
According to The Navy Department Library:
From 1886 through 1947 the regulations are all identical:
"The hair, beard and mustache shall be worn neatly trimmed. The face shall be kept clean-shaved, except that a mustache or beard and mustache, may be worn at discretion. No eccentricities in the manner of wearing the hair, beard, or mustache shall be allowed."
"The face shall be kept clean shaven, except when a mustache and/or beard is worn. The mustache and beard shall be kept short and neatly trimmed and no eccentricity in the manner of wearing these shall be permitted.
One Man Behind the Change
The Facebook page for Major Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi, a Bronze Star Medal recipient, explains that he testified before the United States Commission on Civil Rights on Friday, May 31, about the right of Sikhs to serve in the US military without giving up their Sikh articles of faith. The United States Commission on Civil Rights set up a teleconference for Sikhs and members of the public to listen to Major Kalsi's testimony live.
The New York Times article, Army Allows a Sikh Doctor to Serve Wearing a Turban, explains that this U.S. Army doctor has been wearing his turban since 2009.
The Army will make an exception to a decades-old rule and allow a Sikh doctor to serve without removing his turban and cutting his hair, an advocacy group said Friday.
The Tribune India, wrote of the change, in the article, Faith factor: US military eases regulations on turbans, beards:
As the beard is a requirement, according to the Rehat Maryada, the current regulation, created a regulatory barrier that has kept Sikhs from serving in the US military. Prior to this change in regulation, two Sikhs who served in the US military were Col Arjinderpal Singh Sekhon and Col GB Singh. Currently, three Sikhs Major Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi, Captain Tejdeep Singh Rattan, Corporal Simranpreet Lamba are serving in US Army with hair and turban.
Sikh Coalition Cautions that Challenges Continue
The Sikh Coalition issued the following statement in response to new Pentagon rules governing religious liberty in the U.S. military:
"The Sikh Coalition is deeply appreciative that the Pentagon established a formal process so that aspiring Sikh American Soldiers and other Soldiers of faith may request accommodation of their articles of faith. We are disappointed, however, that the presumptive ban on Sikh articles of faith remains intact.
While the policy revisions announced today provide a framework through which Sikh Soldiers may seek religious accommodation, we caution that uniform rules barring Sikh service remain intact. To be clear, Sikh Americans must still go through a lengthy and uncertain administrative process before being approved or denied the opportunity to serve their country with their religiously-mandated turbans and beards. We will respectfully work with our Nation’s military leadership to improve these regulations and promote the rights that our brave Soldiers are working to protect."
Since 2009, three Sikh Coalition clients—Major Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi, Captain Tejdeep Singh Rattan, and Corporal Simran Preet Singh Lamba—have received rare and historic accommodations to serve in the U.S. Army with their articles of faith intact.
These American Soldiers have won awards and promotions and courageously proved that Sikhs can make great Soldiers without abandoning their faith. However, their historic accommodations came only through the expending of significant resources from the Sikh Coalition and our co-counsel at McDermott Will & Emery LLP over several years.
The revised Pentagon policy appears to formalize the ad hoc process through which these three clients were granted individualized religious accommodations, while maintaining restrictive appearance regulations that effectively ban Sikh articles of faith.
We will continue our respectful dialogue with military leadership to convey our clear message – the service of Sikh Americans in the U.S. Armed Forces is entirely consistent with military readiness, safety, and unit cohesion, and the presumptive ban on Sikh articles of faith must therefore end.
Finally, for the record, here is the news release carried on the State Dept. Website about the new changes in uniform appearance.
DOD Releases New Religious Accommodation Instruction
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 22, 2014 – The Defense Department today released a new instruction that details its updated policy on making religious accommodations requested by service members, Pentagon spokesman Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nathan J. Christensen said today.
A DOD instruction implements a policy or prescribes the manner or plan of action used to carry out a policy, operate a program or activity, and assign responsibilities.
“The new policy states that military departments will accommodate religious requests of service members,” Christensen said, “unless a request would have an adverse effect on military readiness, mission accomplishment, unit cohesion and good order and discipline.”
When a service member requests such an accommodation, he added, department officials balance the need of the service member against the need to accomplish the military mission. Such a request is denied only if an official determines that mission accomplishment needs outweigh the need of the service member, Christensen said.
Requests to accommodate religious practices will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, the spokesman noted.
“Each request must be considered based on its unique facts, the nature of the requested religious accommodation, the effect of approval or denial on the service member's exercise of religion, and the effect of approval or denial on mission accomplishment, including unit cohesion,” he added.
Immediate commanders may resolve religious accommodation requests that don’t require a waiver of military department or service policies that address wearing of military uniforms and religious apparel, grooming, appearance or body-art standards.
Accommodation requests that require a waiver will be forwarded to the respective military department for determination.
Christensen said that factors used to determine if religious apparel interferes with military duties include whether the item:
-- Impairs the safe and effective operation of weapons, military equipment or machinery;
-- Poses a health or safety hazard to the service member wearing the religious apparel;
-- Interferes with the wear or function of special or protective clothing or equipment such as helmets, flak jackets, flight suits, camouflaged uniforms, protective masks, wet suits and crash and rescue equipment; or
-- Otherwise impairs the accomplishment of the military mission.
The spokesman said department officials believe the new instruction will enhance commanders' and supervisors' ability to promote the climate needed to maintain good order and discipline, and will reduce the instances and perception of discrimination toward those whose religious expressions are less familiar to the command.
“The Department of Defense places a high value on the rights of members of the military services to observe the tenets of their respective religions and the rights of others to their own religious beliefs,” Christensen said, “including the right to hold no beliefs.”
(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter @PellerinAFPS)
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