Friday, August 28, 2009

Sikhs, Turbans & Religion in the U.S. Military

Sikhs have a long and respected tradition of military service. But they are not allowed to wear their religious symbols in the U.S. military. Sikhs have been lobbying Congress in order to change Army policy.  Now 43 members of Congress have written a letter to Defense Secretary Gates urging that Sikhs be permitted to wear turbans in the army. The letter includes this statement:

"We do not believe that any American should have to choose between his religion and service to our country
That's a patently ridiculous belief. Obviously people have to choose between their religious practices and service to the country when there is a conflict. Do Quakers serve in the military? How about Jehovah's Witnesses? They don't, because their religious beliefs are not compatible with military service. 

It is not the job of the military to accommodate the beliefs of various religious groups. There are too many religions, and too many beliefs that would require special treatment. If you make exceptions for one religion, even one with a noted warrior tradition, you cannot reasonably deny the requests of others.

Sikh organisations led by Sikh Coalition have urged Secretary Gates to end this discrimination by the US army.  ... The coalition said they will continue their 'Sikh right to serve' campaign till the US military changes its "exclusionary policy" against Sikhs.
They have it exactly backward. There is no discrimination and no exclusionary policy. Instead, they are asking for special treatment. Rather than wear the same headgear as everyone else, they want to wear turbans for religious reasons. Sikhs should accommodate their religious practices to the rules of the U.S. military or they should not serve. The Army should remain firm in rejecting this demand for religious preference.

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