October 11, 2022 (Washington, DC) -- Today, 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 returned to court in order to continue fighting for three Sikh recruits who are working to join the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) and serve with their articles of faith.
As a reminder, on April 11, the Sikh Coalition, Winston & Strawn, the Becket Fund, and BakerHostetler, with support from the Sikh American Veterans Alliance (SAVA), filed suit
against the U.S. Department of Defense on behalf of four clients: USMC Captain (Capt) Sukhbir Singh Toor
and Marine recruits Mr. Milaap Singh Chahal
, Mr. Aekash Singh
, and Mr. Jaskirat Singh
. One part of that lawsuit was a specific request to allow Mr. Chahal, Mr. Singh, and Mr. Singh to attend Marine recruit training while maintaining their turbans and beards--something that was prohibited in their initial limited religious accommodations. Attorneys from the Sikh Coalition and our legal partners argued for this ‘preliminary injunction’ before a U.S. District Court Senior Judge on June 28; on August 24, the judge delivered an opinion denying it. Today’s hearing before the District of Columbia Court of Appeals was in response to an appeal of that opinion.
“We continue to believe that the Marine Corps is doing a disservice to both our clients and itself in denying basic rights that are recognized by other branches of our military and under U.S. law,” said Giselle Klapper, Sikh Coalition Senior Staff Attorney. “We will continue to fight for our clients’ right to maintain their religious practice while they pursue their careers as Marines.”
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 a timeline of major developments in this campaign here
. We continue to view this work as essential to challenging workplace discrimination in the public and private sectors across the United States.
The wider lawsuit, which includes the question of limitations imposed in Capt Toor’s incomplete accommodation, will continue to move forward in the months ahead. The Sikh Coalition and our legal partners will provide further updates as this critical workplace discrimination and religious rights case continues to develop.
As always, the Sikh Coalition urges you to practice your faith fearlessly.