June 29, 2022 (Washington, DC) -- Yesterday, attorneys from the Sikh Coalition, our pro bono co-counsel at Winston & Strawn LLP, and our litigation partners at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and BakerHostetler, representing Sikh American Veterans Alliance (SAVA), argued for the religious rights of three Sikh U.S. Marine recruits in court.
The hearing, which took place before U.S. District Court Senior Judge Richard J. Leon, is a result of our historic lawsuit
filed on April 11 in order to ensure equality of opportunity for Sikhs in the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC). As a reminder, the Sikh Coalition, Winston & Strawn, and Becket filed suit on behalf of USMC Captain Sukhbir Singh Toor
and pre-accession Marine recruits Mr. Milaap Singh Chahal
and Mr. Aekash Singh
; BakerHostetler, with support from SAVA, joined us in representing pre-accession Marine recruit Mr. Jaskirat Singh
During the hearing, our legal team focused on the strong record of Sikh military service in the United States thanks to accommodations and policy change in the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force, as well as the guarantees of both religious freedom and equality of opportunity afforded by the Constitution and a wide range of laws and court cases. Our attorneys also discussed the USMC’s willingness to modify its uniform and grooming policies for reasons other than religious exemptions.
“The Marine Corps has made exceptions to their allegedly ‘strict’ standard of uniformity for various lengths and styles of women’s hair; the beards of those with PFB and other medical conditions; and arm, knee, and even full sleeve tattoos,” said Giselle Klapper, Sikh Coalition Senior Staff Attorney. “Religious exemptions for articles of faith are no more indicative of ‘individuality’ than these things, and certainly no less important than them.”
To date, the Sikh Coalition, SAVA, and our partners have helped more than 50 Sikh Americans in the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force secure their accommodations; after 12 years of advocacy and legal action--and major policy changes to facilitate religious accommodations in the U.S. Army in 2017 and the U.S. Air Force in 2020--more than 100 Sikh soldiers and airmen serve with their articles of faith and are able to stay safe while doing so, both at home and abroad. You can read our community FAQ about this campaign here
, and view the timeline of major developments here
We expect Judge Leon to issue a ruling on this case in the next few months, and will continue to provide updates as events warrant. In the meantime, if you or someone you know has faced any discrimination in the workplace, reach out to our legal team
for free, expert assistance.
As always, the Sikh Coalition urges you to practice your faith fearlessly.