On November 12, 2014, Hofstra Student Iknoor Singh of the Sikh religion sued the US army. When he was in school he wanted to participate in the ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps), a college-based training program to prepare commissioned officers of the US Armed Forces. When he approached the ROTC to register he asked for a religious accommodation. The student wears a turban and has long hair as part of his faith and assumed if he was open about the information it would not be a problem.
Singh’s accommodation was rejected on the grounds that it would interfere with the Army’s
“readiness, unit cohesion, standards, health, safety or discipline,” said the court documents.
However after this decision the ROTC came back with a second statement. They said Singh could apply for an exemption once he became a cadet ultimately defeating the purpose. Once Singh became a cadet he would have already betrayed his faith.
“I couldn’t believe the military was asking me to make the impossible decision of choosing between the country I love and my faith,” Singh said in a blog post on the ACLU’s website.
Just a couple of weeks ago, a similar case was reported by a young woman who applied to the company Abercrombie and Fitch. She was denied a job because of religious decisions the company felt would disrupt the flow.
On Monday, a verdict was reached. US District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled in favor of Iknoor Singh. Although Jackson acknowledged the importance of cohesion amongst troops, she felt that this case led to a bigger issue. There is a need in the military to protect an individual’s religious freedom. Singh’s case stood as a symbol for those rights.
Amandeep Sidhu, an attorney who has represented Sikhs seeking religious accommodations, said Jackson had “unequivocally rejected” the Army’s justifications for refusing to accept Iknoor Singh.
Through this case it was found that the Army has granted many accommodations to people of the Sikh religion, only making this case more hurtful and confusing. To provide one more perspective, it only takes one person to make a change. Iknoor Singh has raised the awareness needed to start the conversation.