Sikhs ask US lawmakers to ensure religious liberty in military

  • PTI, Washington
  • Updated: Dec 06, 2014 11:07 IST

Sikhs enjoy greater religious liberty in the militaries of countries like India, Canada and Britain than the US, a Sikh advocacy group has said, presenting a case for removal of barriers for the members of the community to join armed forces in America.

"Sikh service members in the militaries of Canada, India, and the United Kingdom can expect to enjoy a greater measure of religious liberty than their peers in the United States," the Sikh coalition said in a written submission to the House Armed Services Committee's sub-committee on military personal.

The Washington-based group told members of the sub-committee in the absence of such rights, the nation's commitment to religious liberty rings hollow.

The sub-committee recently held a hearing on religious accommodations in the armed services.

In January this year, the department of defence issued new religious accommodation to expand service opportunities for people of faith.

Sikh coalition alleges these guidelines contain loopholes that continue to make observant Sikh-Americans vulnerable to discrimination solely on the basis of their religion.

"Our nation's commitment to religious liberty rings hollow when we lag behind these other nations, and it is a shame that patriotic Sikh-Americans are still struggling to secure equal opportunity to serve in the US military in the 21st century," the coalition said.

In 1948, President Harry Truman promised "that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, colour, religion, or national origin," it said.

The coalition said although defence department's instruction purports to place "a high value on the rights of members of the military services to observe the tenets of their respective religions," its current provisions will ironically have a chilling effect on the ability of observant Sikh-Americans to serve in our nation's military while practicing their religion.

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