Army ruling lets Sikh captain keep beard, turban

Army ruling lets Sikh captain keep beard, turban

An Army officer who filed suit against the service and the Defense Department to maintain articles of his Sikh faith while in uniform received a waiver to Army appearance standards that will allow him to keep his beard, long hair and turban.

Capt. Simratpal Singh requested such an exception in October. After months without an answer, and after he was asked by the Army to participate in what his legal team called "unprecedented, prejudiced testing" regarding the fit of his helmet and gas mask, he sued DoD, the Army and several top defense officials in search of a permanent waiver. In early March, a U.S. District Court judge in the District of Columbia ordered the Army not to undertake the gear tests.

According to the March 30 memo ordering the exception, a copy of which was provided to Army Times on Friday by Singh's representatives, the officer:

  • Must wear his hair, beard and turban in "a neat and conservative manner" and in a way that allows proper fit of the Army Combat Helmet and other equipment as required.
  • May wear a turban instead of other nonprotective Army headgear.
  • Should be prepared to "comply fully" with Army appearance regulations should the exemption be removed. It will be reviewed by Singh's command on a quarterly basis and after a year, or possibly sooner, by the Army's assistant secretary for manpower and reserve affairs.

The court case remains active, according to a Sikh Coalition spokesman. As part of the initial compliant, Singh's legal team requested the judge order the Army to pay Singh's legal fees and award "nominal damages," while ruling on the constitutionality of the Army's actions toward Singh on religious discrimination grounds.

Read full story here -