U.S. Commission On Civil Rights Releases Letter To Department Of Defense On Religious Rights Of Sikhs In The Military
WASHINGTON, Dec. 9, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The United States Commission on Civil Rights, by majority vote, has asked the U. S. Department of Defense for a response to the Commission’s concerns about the military’s possible violation of civil rights of adherents to religious obligations of Sikhs and other religions.
Testimony entered into the record during a Commission briefing show that military regulations generally prohibit the wearing of religious headgear and maintaining other religious requirements such as unshorn hair and beards. The Commission’s letter acknowledges the legitimate concerns of the military relating to service member safety and military necessity, but expresses concern over the apparent deterrent effect of such regulations on participation by affected religious group members in our armed forces.
The Commission’s letter also points to the burdensome procedures imposed on military members who wish to obtain an exemption from such regulations, which have in the past included submitting a petition signed by many thousands of people and securing the support of dozens of members of Congress.
Commission Chairman Martin R. Castro stated, “The privilege of serving one’s country should not be denied a person for adhering to his or her religious beliefs. We look forward to a constructive dialogue with the Secretary of Defense to ensure that Sikh Americans, and others, may serve without sacrificing their faith.”
The Commission’s letter asks the Department of Defense to provide the Commission with views on these regulations and the possible exclusion of Sikh and other Americans from service in the armed forces of this country based on their religious beliefs.
Public Affairs Unit
SOURCE U.S. Commission on Civil Rights