A Sikh Marine is contemplating a lawsuit to pressure the Department of the Navy to grant him permission to put on a turban and beard always in accordance along with his religion.
First Lt. Sukhbir Toor, an active-duty hearth help officer for third Battalion, eleventh Marines, utilized in March for a non secular lodging to put on a beard and turban and to not reduce his hair. The software was made with the assistance of an advocacy group referred to as the Sikh Coalition.
The Navy's response in June largely prohibited Toor from sporting his turban and beard, and he quickly filed an attraction, the coalition mentioned in a Sept. 27 press launch.
In August, the Navy granted Toor a partial lodging to put on his turban and beard in some circumstances -- however not all. The service mentioned he must shave and take away his turban when assigned to a ceremonial unit, resembling an honor guard. He additionally must shave his beard when deployed and receiving hostile-fire or imminent-danger pay.
The Sikh Coalition mentioned this amounted to an "incomplete and flawed accommodation ... which recognizes his right to maintain his articles of faith but still imposes undue restrictions on his free exercise of religion."
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The group mentioned it's now contemplating what its final steps may be earlier than submitting a lawsuit.
The New York Times first reported on Toor's case.
A Marine Corps spokesman mentioned in an e-mail Wednesday that Toor's job as an artillery officer would make it unsafe to put on his turban and beard whereas deployed.
In the e-mail, Maj. Jordan Cochran pointed to a piece of the rules on non secular lodging outlining security hazards, which state that the service can think about whether or not the non secular attire would possibly pose a well being or security hazard, or intervene with the wear and tear or correct operate of particular or protecting clothes or tools.
"When in a different billet (job) outside of his primary [military occupation specialty], 1st Lt. Toor will be able to exercise his accommodation on multiple occasions over the course of his career when mission parameters of his unit permit," Cochran mentioned.
The Sikh religion requires males to not shave or reduce their hair, and to cowl their hair with a turban. If Toor's request is permitted, the coalition mentioned it probably could be the primary time the Marine Corps had granted a Sikh a full lodging.
In latest years, different providers have granted troops non secular lodging to develop beards or in any other case be exempted from some gown or grooming rules. In 2019, for instance, the Air Force granted a Sikh airman permission to put on a turban, beard and lengthy hair.
The Air Force granted a beard waiver to a Muslim airman in 2018, and waivers to at the very least two Norse Heathen airmen in 2019. And in 2020, the service up to date its rules to formally lay out the method by which airmen can request non secular lodging waivers.
When Toor joined the Marines in October 2017, the coalition mentioned, he made the "extremely difficult decision" to shave his beard and reduce his hair to satisfy the service's grooming requirements and serve his nation.
With his promotion to captain arising this fall, Toor determined to ask for a non secular lodging, hoping his file could be sufficient to obtain approval.
"For more than three years, I have proven my commitment to excelling in the U.S. Marine Corps and defending my country," Toor mentioned within the press launch. "Now, I am simply asking for a religious accommodation that will permanently allow my turban and beard, so that I can once again be true to my faith while continuing my career of service."
Amrith Kaur Aakre, the authorized director for the Sikh Coalition, mentioned the group understands that the army providers typically have respectable security issues when requested for these sorts of lodging. The group's shoppers have engaged in these conversations in good religion up to now, she mentioned.
"What we've seen from the USMC in 1st Lt. Toor's case, however, is a continual push to ground their objections to accommodation in outdated notions of uniformity and unit cohesion that are not reflective of the diversity of our nation," Aakre mentioned in an e-mail.
Giselle Klapper, a senior employees lawyer for the Sikh Coalition, urged Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger to evaluate Toor's service file and grant him an lodging that might permit him to proceed serving whereas following his religion.
-- Stephen Losey could be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @StephenLosey.
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