One General’s Take on Why Sikhs Should Be Allowed to Serve in Military

Since 1981, it has been impossible for a Sikh practitioner to serve in the United States military without abandoning core teachings of his or her faith. Recently, 27 retired U.S. generals delivered a letter to Secretary of Defense Ash Carter urging him to revise the policies that make Sikh service incompatible with their religious practices.

Sikhism demands that its male practitioners not cut their hair or beards. They are expected to wear their unshorn hair in turbans. Doing so violates mandatory dress code regulations in the U.S. military and its reserve units.

In an article on Religion News Service (RNS) published on Veterans’ Day, one of those 27 retired senior commanders explained his rationale for opposing the military policy that clearly discriminates against Sikhs. Retired Lt. Gen. William Francis Ward Jr. explained that he believes that, “being forced to choose between one’s faith and service to our country is a choice that no American should have to make.” His case is well-reasoned and should be taken seriously by Carter and his boss, President Barack Obama.

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