Soldiers Can Keep Beards for Religious Reasons in Military

Soldiers Can Keep Beards for Religious Reasons in Military

( – Those who follow the Sikh religion and adhere to its rules face stringent requirements in terms of their hair and beards. Though there are different levels of adherence within the community, those who strictly follow the rules cannot shave or cut their hair. This has traditionally caused issues within the US Marine Corps, as the branch’s code of conduct does not allow recruits to have beards. However, a federal court has just ruled the Marine Corps can no longer compel Sikh service members to be clean-shaven during boot camp.

Judge Patricia Millett of the US Court of Appeals in Washington, DC, presided over the case brought by three Sikh Marine recruits against the Marine Corps. The trio was seeking an immediate injunction to allow them to partake in boot camp while wearing beards, as required by their faith.

In reaching her decision, the judge pointed to the fact that the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard all allow for religious exemptions in terms of the rules around hair and beards. She also noted the Marine Corps already allows recruits to forgo shaving for medical reasons.

Might this breakdown of barriers for the Sikh religion have beneficial impacts for other minority communities seeking to serve in the US military in the future?

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