Widespread changes were announced yesterday by the Pentagon with regards to the wearing of religious items by people serving in the US Army, including beards, religious tattoos and turbans. The military claims it will make every effort to accommodate “individual expressions of sincerely held beliefs” for service members. In doing so, it can have a great impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, good order and discipline, health and safety.
Earlier this month, a major in the U.S. Army, who is a Sikh American, took his case to staffers on the Hill, explaining how he and other Sikhs should be able to serve in uniform and still maintain their religious beliefs, including wearing turbans and unshorn hair, including beards. There are currently only around three Sikh Americans in the military, compared to nearly 3,700 Muslims, 6,300 Buddhists, and more than 1,500 Wiccans.
There will be times when a request may be denied if it is believed that it could interfere with the soldier’s ability to be an effective member of the team, such as if a long beard or long hair could interfere with the wearing of a gas mask or helmet.
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