This Sikh Marine Is Able to Sue the Service to Put on a Beard and Turban at All Occasions

A Sikh Marine is contemplating a lawsuit to pressure the Division of the Navy to grant him permission to put on a turban and beard always in accordance together with his religion.

First Lt. Sukhbir Toor, an active-duty fireplace 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 applying was made with the assistance of an advocacy group known 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, reminiscent of 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 lodging … which acknowledges his proper to take care of his articles of religion however nonetheless imposes undue restrictions on his free train of faith.”

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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 Occasions 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.

Within the e-mail, Maj. Jordan Cochran pointed to a piece of the laws on spiritual lodging outlining security hazards, which state that the service can think about whether or not the spiritual attire would possibly pose a well being or security hazard, or intervene with the damage or correct operate of particular or protecting clothes or gear.

“When in a special billet (job) exterior of his main [military occupation specialty], 1st Lt. Toor will be capable of train his lodging on a number of events over the course of his profession when mission parameters of his unit allow,” 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 accepted, the coalition mentioned it doubtless could be the primary time the Marine Corps had granted a Sikh a full lodging.

In recent times, different companies have granted troops spiritual lodging to develop beards or in any other case be exempted from some gown or grooming laws. In 2019, for instance, the Air Pressure granted a Sikh airman permission to put on a turban, beard and lengthy hair.

The Air Pressure 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 laws to formally lay out the method by which airmen can request spiritual lodging waivers.

When Toor joined the Marines in October 2017, the coalition mentioned, he made the “extraordinarily troublesome choice” to shave his beard and reduce his hair to fulfill the service’s grooming requirements and serve his nation.

Along 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 greater than three years, I’ve confirmed my dedication to excelling within the U.S. Marine Corps and defending my nation,” Toor mentioned within the press launch. “Now, I’m merely asking for a non secular lodging that can completely permit my turban and beard, in order that I can as soon as once more be true to my religion whereas persevering with my profession of service.”

Amrith Kaur Aakre, the authorized director for the Sikh Coalition, mentioned the group understands that the navy companies typically have legit security issues when requested for these sorts of lodging. The group’s shoppers have engaged in these conversations in good religion previously, she mentioned.

“What we have seen from the USMC in 1st Lt. Toor’s case, nevertheless, is a continuous push to floor their objections to lodging in outdated notions of uniformity and unit cohesion that aren’t reflective of the range of our nation,” Aakre mentioned in an e-mail.

Giselle Klapper, a senior workers lawyer for the Sikh Coalition, urged Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger to assessment Toor’s service file and grant him an lodging that may permit him to proceed serving whereas following his religion.

— Stephen Losey might be reached at Observe him on Twitter @StephenLosey.

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