Army captain sues Defense Dept to keep beard and turban while he serves

A Sikh-American Army captain is suing the U.S. Department of Defense for a religious accommodation that would allow him to keep his beard and turban while he serves.

Capt. Simratpal Singh filed the lawsuit on Monday, according to NBC News.

“Capt. Singh seeks a religious accommodation for his Sikh articles of faith so that he can continue serving on the same footing as all other soldiers,” Harsimran Kaur, the legal director of The Sikh Coalition, who is representing Singh along with The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and the McDermott Will & Emery law firm, told NBC News. “Singling out a Sikh officer to submit to a battery of tests – that aren’t given to the thousands of others soldiers with similar medical and religious accommodations – is discriminatory, un-American and unconstitutional.”

Singh was given a 30-day accommodation on Dec. 9, 2015, which was extended until March 31, 2016, but Singh was ordered to undergo non-standard testing on March 1 in order to stay in the Army, according to NBC News.

“Captain Singh upholds the finest traditions of our military,” Eric Baxter of The Becket Fund told NBC News. “He’s a West Point graduate, Army Ranger, Bronze Star Recipient. He knows he is subject to the same standards as everyone else. Just this morning, he underwent a previously scheduled gas mask test with his unit and passed without a hitch. He shouldn’t be subjected to additional, discriminatory testing because of his faith. The Army is treating him as if he were a lab rat.”

The grooming regulations have been in place since 1981, NBC reported, so they should have come as no surprise to Cpt. Singh.


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