Sikh Student's Right To Serve In ROTC And Wear His Turban Upheld By US Court

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A Sikh college student will now be able to pursue his dream of serving in the U.S. Army, without being forced to choose between his country and his faith.

U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled last week that the Army violated Iknoor Singh’s rights when it refused to let him compete for a spot as a contracted member of his college’s Reserve Officer Training Corps program.

Singh, a 20-year-old student at New York’s Hofstra University, found himself in a Catch-22 last year. He was faced with having to remove his turban, shave his beard and cut his hair — all acts that are prohibited by Singh’s religion — in accordance with military rules, before he would have been allowed to apply for a waiver on religious grounds.

Singh will now be able to enroll in the ROTC without compromising his religious beliefs. “I’m very grateful that the freedom of religion our country fought so hard for will allow me to pursue my dream career — serving my country — without violating my faith,” Singh said in a statement.

Heather Weaver, the American Civil Liberties Union attorney who represented Singh, told The Huffington Post she hopes the case will make it difficult for the ROTC to deny admission to students whose religion keeps them from conforming to the Army’s grooming and uniform standards.

“I think that many Sikh students may have felt there was no place at all for them in the ROTC, but they still want to serve their country,” Weaver said. “This case lets them know that there’s an opportunity there for them to pursue.”

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