The Marine Corps Uniform Regulations said, “the face shall be clean shaven, except that a mustache may be worn.”
SACRAMENTO COUNTY, Calif. — Four Sikh Americans are suing the U.S. Marine Corps for religious discrimination.
A group of lawyers represents Captain Sukhbir Singh Toor and new recruits Milaap Singh Chahal, Aekash Singh and Jaskirat Singh.
The legal team filed a 46-page complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Monday, saying the Marine Corps only allows the four men to practice their faith “sometimes” while serving the country.
“It’s really unfortunate,” said Amandeep S. Sidhu, partner at Winston & Strawn LLP. “Each of our clients are essentially asked to make a decision between whether they can continue to practice their faith as Sikhs or serve our country as Marines.”
The Sikh Coalition is a national grassroots organization, working for a world where Sikhs and other religious minorities in America can freely practice their faith without prejudice or discrimination.
According to the Sikh Coalition, Captain Toor has served in the U.S. Marine Corps since 2017. In March 2021, with the assistance of the Sikh Coalition, 1st Lt. Toor submitted a request for accommodation to serve with his Articles of Faith. Toor granted himself historic – but still incomplete and inadequate – accommodation in June 2021.
Toor’s current accommodation prohibits him from maintaining his beard, one of the five Sikh articles of faith, when serving in areas where he would receive a hostile fire or imminent danger bounty. After “exhausting Toor’s appeal process,” the Sikh Coalition says a lawsuit has been formally filed against Toor and the three other Marine Corps recruits.
“Each of them received an initial decision from the Marine Corps that grants their housing,” Sidhu said. “But it includes limitations that require them to remove their Articles of Faith, shave their beards, cut their hair, and remove their turbans to undergo basic training.”
Gurdip Sing Rehal is part of the West Sacramento Sikh Temple, also called Gurdwara. He explains that Sikhs do not cut their hair as a sign of commitment and acceptance of God’s will, and the same goes for wearing a turban.
“We’re not supposed to cut our hair,” Rehal said. “The turban is our identity. When you see someone with a turban, 99% are Sikhs. In our society, there are people of different faiths. We should all live in peace and respect each other’s religious beliefs, or their appearance.”
The Marine Corps Uniform Regulations said, “the face shall be clean shaven, except that a mustache may be worn.” He also explains that “the requirement for hair regulations is to provide guidance in maintaining a neat and professional military image.”
ABC10’s Race and Culture team contacted the US Department of Defense about the lawsuit, which declined to comment.
“This idea that you can just pack your Sikh faith in a suitcase and put it away for basic training and then re-enact it at the end really feels like a test of loyalty and one that is unnecessary,” Sidhu said. .