November 8, 2018 (Fort Jackson, SC) – On November 1st, Specialist Gurpreet Singh Cheema successfully graduated from Basic Combat Training
. After graduation, he moves onto one final phase to complete his Advanced Individual Training before he will be assigned to a duty station where he will serve full-time active duty as a Financial Management Specialist.
This graduation marks another community milestone in the progress of Sikhs further breaking employment discrimination barriers in the U.S. military – our nation's largest employer. Specialist Cheema was recruited in 2015 by the U.S. Army for his foreign language skills through the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program. He immediately contacted the Sikh Coalition, which has partnered with the law firm McDermott Will & Emery LLP on numerous military matters, to assist him in submitting a religious accommodation request. That request was granted by the U.S. Army in August 2016. Then on the heels of the landmark policy change in January 2017
, the Army granted Specialist Cheema a revised accommodation consistent with the new policy.
“Regardless of what career you choose, nobody should ever be denied employment because of their religious beliefs,” said Specialist Gurpreet Singh Cheema. “I want to thank the Sikh Coalition for their tireless work to end religious discrimination in the workplace and I’m grateful for the progress we are making together to ensure that no Sikh ever has to choose between their faith and career.”
The Sikh Coalition is also excited to release our new Know Your Rights: Sikhs in the United States Army
. This guide focuses entirely on the Sikh articles of faith and is designed to provide Sikhs a detailed understanding of the Army’s uniform and grooming standards, and the religious accommodation request process. While this resource will serve
as a guide for Sikhs who consider joining the Army, the Sikh Coalition’s legal team remains available to provide support throughout the process as well.
“While we have made significant progress to advance civil rights for religious minorities in the U.S. Army, we remain ready to provide free legal support to Sikhs who encounter any problems obtaining a religious accommodation,” said Sikh Coalition Staff Attorney Giselle Klapper. “We will continue to ensure that the U.S. Army affords the same equal employment opportunity to every Sikh who chooses to serve.”
Following in the footsteps of African American, LGBTQ and women's civil rights movements, the Sikh Coalition continues to systematically remove barriers that prevent Sikhs from serving in the U.S. military. Our Army campaign has been endorsed by 27 retired generals and over 100 bipartisan members of the U.S. Congress. In partnership with the law firm McDermott Will & Emery LLP and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the Sikh Coalition filed and favorably resolved two lawsuits in federal court that paved the way for a groundbreaking policy update in 2017.
After an eight-year campaign, the U.S. Army put forward new rules in January 2017
that significantly improved the standards for Sikhs and other religious minorities to serve in our nation's military. The U.S. Army has granted religious accommodations to over 20 Sikh Coalition clients and paved the way for many more observant Sikhs.
As always, the Sikh Coalition urges you to practice your faith fearlessly.