Sikhs sue to join U.S. military without cutting hair

Stories Here:

Capt. Kamaljeet Kalsi, M.D., and 2nd Lt. Tejdeep Rattan (D.D.S. expected) (Hey, they’re not named Singh!) have sued to be allowed to keep their hair uncut and to wear their turbans while on active duty.

What’s right? On the one hand, I think it would be good for the U.S. Army to prominently and conspicuously show that members of minority groups, including minority religions, are full members of American society. On the other hand, I like the policy that prevents active duty members from wearing symbols of religion in order to emphasize the Army’s religion-neutral role.

What’s right?

The Canadian military has been cool with it for quite some time. No collapse of civilization has been evident.

I’d probably say that they can get in but aren’t allowed in heavy combat positions unless they can get a helmet on.

Seems to me they should have to follow the rules everyone has to follow. It is no secret and it is evenly applied to all members of the military.

If they cannot abide by that then they shouldn’t join. Simple as that.

Interesting question.

Does anyone know if the issue was raised when there was a draft?

Does anyone know if other religions have exceptions (e.g., halal or kosher food, wearing of a yamaka)?

I’m sure it’s not beyond human capability to design a reinforced turban?

Wouldn’t this essentially create a privilege for religious people?

There are a number of reasons higher up my priority list as to why I never enlisted in the army, but having to cut my hair was on that list. Short hair… well it’s just not me. Why do I (an atheist) have to cut my hair but some other bloke (theist) gets to wear his as long as he wants?

If enlistment gets low enough, the military has to consider bending on quite a few issues.

I’m an atheist who has no objection to having to cut my hair for my reserve duties while a Sikh does not.

Haircut regulations are silly and pointless. If women can wear long hair, why can’t men?

That said, I don’t think the Sikhs should get any special favors, I just think the regulation in question should be abolished.

I’m pretty sure most dietary regulations are accommodated in all but the most extreme circumstances. On the other hand, while I know vegetarian MREs are provided, I’m not sure about kosher or halal. Isn’t vegetarian food automatically kosher, etc?

I saw a Jewish chaplain once wearing a camouflaged yarmulke, but I don’t think your average, everyday Jewish soldier is allowed to wear one.

I think the regs are the regs until you change em. The hair has to go.

The current policy added visible religious items to the regulations. I think its was circa 1886. These men’s fathers served in the military before the new policy was introduced. The fathers were grandfathered in under the old regulation and were allowed to continue to wear their turbans. The sons then joined the military being told they would be able to wear their turbans and keep their hair long. As they get closer to active duty they are being told that’s not the case.

The current argument is if the earlier generation was able to serve honorable while wearing their turbans without effecting their ability to do the job why did the policy need to change. It is up to the military to prove these specific soldiers can not perform their jobs appropriately do to the turbans,

If earlier generations could serve honorably while wearing turbans, beards and long hair, why can’t ALL soldiers now do the same? Why make an exception for Sikhs? It either affects one’s ability to carry out one’s soldierly duties*, or it doesn’t. Religion shouldn’t enter into it.

*However, I was in the Army, and unfortunately it seems that the bulk of one’s soldierly duties is composed of unquestioningly putting up with bullshit regulations such as this.

I don’t think they’re going to get very far. In Goldman v. Weinberger, 475 U.S. 503 (1986), an orthodox rabbi challenged the Air Force legislation that prevented him from wearing a yarmulke indoors with his uniform. The court ruled that First Amendment challenges to miltary regulations are subject to less scrutiny than a similar challenge from a civilian due to a greater need for discipline and uniformity, so the regulation against yarmulkes was constitutional. Congress passed a statute the next year that allowed relgious apparel worn in a “neat and conservative manner” which allowed yarmulkes worn with the uniform, so the Sikhs here have an argument that they’re being afforded unequal treatment, but since the statute is content-neutral my guess is that the regulation will stand.

I’ll also note that, apparently, Sikhism is anti-suicide (including physician assisted). I’d personally venture to guess from this that there’s a better argument to be made for the gurus wanting you to live than to have a full head of hair. I.e. wear a helmet if you want to get shot at.

There are apparently concerns among the Sikh community in India that turban-wearing is decreasing among the young. I’d have to imagine that young Sikhs in the US face even more pressure to cut their hair to conform to Western social norms.

Yep, regs is regs. If you’re hung up about your hair length of all things, chances are you’re not going to have a great time with the rest of the bullshit.

Also, race, religion, and creed are supposed to take a back seat in the army, barring reasonable accomodations. As a civilian, you might have been black, white, or yellow, but as soon as you’re in the service, all you are is green. You look alike, you dress alike, and you follow the same bullshit regs as everyone else, and if the army says cut your hair, you’d better learn to love clippers.

And the army can tell you what to do with your hair, just like the marines can tell you what tattoos you can and can’t have.

These officers knew the rules before they signed up. It’s a little late to complain.

Those gays knew they weren’t supposed to be gay when they joined. Learn to love the vag or GTFO.

/devil’s advocate

If you want them to fight, let them keep their stuff. If you don’t want them to fight, then enforce the rules. Easy enough.

Exactly. If they are happy to go into a combat situation without a helmet, shouldn’t it be up to them? Are there any statistics on how many times wearing a helmet has saved a soldiers life?