The Marines’ argument that allowing religious exemptions would weaken the unit’s cohesion was rejected by a US court on Friday, and the Marines were now required to allow Sikh recruits to keep their beards and don turbans.
The US Army, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard, as well as many other militaries, already comply with the Sikhism’s religious requirements. Sikhism is a religion that originated in South Asia five centuries ago and forbids men from shaving or trimming their beards and mandates the wearing of turbans.
However, the Marine Corps refused to grant any exceptions to grooming standards during the 13 weeks of basic training and during potential combat periods in response to three Sikhs who passed tests to enlist last year. However, the three could still wear beards and turbans at other times.
According to the verdict, the Marine leadership said that in order to undergo a ‘psychological change’ toward shared sacrifice, recruits needed to be ‘stripped of their identity.’
The Marines did not make any claims that beards and turbans would compromise safety or physically obstruct training, said a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals in Washington, who disagreed with the marines.
The court pointed out that the Marines allowed women to keep their hairstyles, spared men with razor bumps, a skin ailment, from shaving, and broadly accepted tattoos — ‘a quintessential manifestation of individual identity.’
Judge Patricia Millett, who was appointed by former president Barack Obama, wrote the ruling. ‘If the need to develop unit cohesion during recruit training can accommodate some external indicia of individuality, then whatever line is drawn cannot turn on whether those indicia are prevalent in society or instead reflect the faith practise of a minority,’.