In recent years, the United States military has been dealing with the issue of how to accommodate religious requests from its members that violate the military’s strict dress code.
In a stunning change of policy, the U.S. Army has announced that, effective immediately, brigade-level commanders will be required to make accommodations for “servicemen and women who wear beards, turbans or hijabs” because of their religion, The Atlantic reported.
This move was billed as allowing those who are serving in the Army to do so without violating their religious beliefs. The Army has been studying the issue for a while now, and has concluded that allowing soldiers to wear beards or turbans would not adversely affect their combat abilities.
“You are prepared to go into harm’s way, even to die, and practice of your religious belief brings courage and calmness,” explained Douglas Carver, a Southern Baptist minister and former chief chaplain for the army. “A soldier should not have to feel that he’s about to give his life for his country, but that he doesn’t want to compromise his individual faith or practices.”
NDTV noted that brigade commanders are now required to give exemptions to those who apply because of religious reasons, unless the commanders have reason to doubt the sincerity of the request.
This new ruling was seen as a victory for Sikh-Americans in particular, who have been some of the most vocal opponents of the Army’s former stance on turbans and beards, The American Bazaar reported.
This new ruling will undoubtedly spark a fierce debate over which should be more important in the military — uniformity of appearance or religious freedom.
Any military needs to have its members be uniform, but the United States is a country that prides itself on religious freedom, meaning that it’s a question without a simple answer.
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