March 11, 2014 (Washington, DC) – With the help of Sikh Coalition supporters nationwide, 105 bipartisan members of the U.S. House of Representatives have sent a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel calling for equal opportunity for all Sikhs who wish to serve in the U.S. military.
Click here to read the letter.
Led by Representatives Joseph Crowley (NY), Rodney Frelinguysen (NJ), Judy Chu (CA), and David Valadao (CA), the new letter from Congress is a big step forward in our multi-year campaign to ensure that Sikhs are not discriminated against because of their religion by the Department of Defense—the nation’s largest employer.
Significantly, the new letter more than doubles the amount of Congressional support our community has received on this issue since the Sikh Coalition began this campaign in 2009.
Action Needed for New Senate Letter
Our work is not finished. The U.S. Senate is now considering a letter in support of revisions to the Pentagon’s restrictive policies on religious accommodation.
Click here to send a petition letter to your U.S. Senators.
Since these restrictive policies took effect in 1981, only three Sikhs – Maj. Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi, Capt. Tejdeep Singh Rattan, and Cpl. Simran Preet Singh Lamba – have received rare permission to serve in the U.S. Army while maintaining their articles of faith. Despite their achievements, including promotions, awards, and two successful deployments to Afghanistan, their accommodations are neither permanent nor guaranteed and can be taken away at any time, even shortly before retirement.
Under new Pentagon rules adopted last January, current and future Sikh service members may even be required to remove their turbans, cut their hair, and shave their beards in violation of their religion while their accommodation requests are pending.
The Sikh Coalition will continue to challenge discriminatory government policies, including military regulations which restrict the right of Sikhs to maintain their articles of faith.
Timeline of Sikh Coalition’s Right to Serve Campaign
Major Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi’s Op/Ed in Stars and Stripes
Congressional Testimony on Sikhs in the U.S. Military