Fifteen influential Senators have asked US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to allow Sikhs to serve in the armed forces with their religious faith intact.
"We believe that a service member's religion should not be a barrier in our nation's armed services," 15 top American Senators
wrote in a letter to Hagel.
The Senators made the demand in the hope that necessary instructions would be issued so that talented Americans of faith are given a fair opportunity to serve in the US military.
According to the copy of the letter dated April 24, which was provided to PTI today, the Senators said that in recent years the US Army has granted individual waivers to three Sikhs to wear turbans and maintain unshorn hair and beards.
"Each of them successfully completed basic training and complied with safety requirements relating to helmets and protective masks," the Senators wrote.
Two of these soldiers were deployed to Afghanistan and earned a Bronze Star Medal and Army Commendation Medal for their service while another was recently promoted to the rank of a Corporal, the letter states.
"In recent years, the US Army has also granted waiver to a Jewish Rabbi and two Muslim doctors to maintain beards," the letter said, which was signed by Senators Tim Kaine, Patrick Leahy, Patty Murry and Ron Wyden among others.
According to the Senators, the recent changes made by the Pentagon to accommodate Sikh and members of other religious minorities on a case by case basis were not adequate.
This, they argued is "inconsistent" with the intent of the changed law, which creates the presumptive entitlement to wear religious apparel that is neat and conservative and which does not interfere with military duties.
The campaign demanding the allowing of Sikhs to serve in the army with their articles of faith is spearheaded by Sikh Coalition, a Sikh advocacy group based in Washington.
More than a month ago more than 100 Congressmen wrote a similar letter to Hagel in support of the equal opportunity for devout Sikhs who wish to serve in the US Armed Forces.
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