ROTC Student Wins Right to Follow Sikh Teachings

June 16, 2015

A federal judge has ordered the U.S. Army's Reserve Officer Training Corps to permit Iknoor Singh, a Sikh student at Hofstra University, to enroll in its programs without shaving his beard, cutting his hair or taking off his turban, the Associated Press reported. The Sikh faith forbids such actions. While the Army has opened the door for case-by-case reconsideration of its rules on hair and facial hair, this decision orders the Army to let the student enroll in ROTC. "It is difficult to see how accommodating plaintiff's religious exercise would do greater damage to the Army's compelling interests in uniformity, discipline, credibility, unit cohesion and training than the tens of thousands of medical shaving profiles the Army has already granted," said the judge.

The Army has not responded to the ruling.

A spokeswoman for Hofstra, where Singh is enrolled and wants to participate in ROTC, said that the institution "supports Mr. Singh's desire to serve his country, as well as his right to religious expression and practice. We are pleased that the courts have affirmed that he can do both as a member of the ROTC."

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