November 30, 2022 (Washington, DC) -- Yesterday, 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 on behalf of three Sikh recruits working to join the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) and serve with their articles of faith.
As a reminder, on April 11, 2022, 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 pre-accession Marine recruits Mr. Milaap Singh Chahal
, Mr. Aekash Singh
, and Mr. Jaskirat Singh
. One component of that lawsuit was a push to allow Mr. Chahal, Mr. Singh, and Mr. Singh to attend Marine recruit training while maintaining their articles of faith--something that was prohibited by the USMC in all three men’s limited religious accommodations. Yesterday’s oral argument, before three judges of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, was the latest effort to fight for this specific part of the case.
“Our clients have been kept in limbo for months waiting on the Marine Corps to answer a simple question: Why exactly does their faith prohibit them from serving?” said Giselle Klapper, Sikh Coalition Senior Staff Attorney. “To date, there has been no answer to that question that doesn’t rely on discrimination or exclusion. It is time to put this issue to rest and let these young men move forward with their chosen careers of service.”
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
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. In the meantime, if you or someone you know has faced discrimination around your articles of faith in the workplace or elsewhere, contact our legal team
for free expert assistance.
As always, the Sikh Coalition urges you to practice your faith fearlessly.