India Caucus Chair Rep. Ami Bera Calls Army Religious Accommodation Policy Change ‘Strong Step Forward’ for Sikh Americans
Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Ami Bera (CA-7), Chair of the Caucus on India and Indian Americans, applauded the Army’s Religious Accommodation Policy as an important step forward for Sikh Americans in the Army.
The January 3 update allows for Sikh Americans in the Army to receive career-long accommodations to wear articles of faith, such as a turban or beard, and to gain that approval from a brigade-level commander. Observant Sikhs must avoid shaving their beards, and maintain their hair uncut under a turban.
“This is an important step in ensuring that our military can draw on the best and brightest patriots our nation has to offer, no matter what their faith or culture,” said Rep. Ami Bera.
Prior to the announcement, Sikhs were required to submit to a religious accommodation process granting them limited, impermanent permission to wear articles of faith through the Secretary of the Army.
Last month, in concert with the Sikh Coalition, Bera advocated for a constituent from California’s 7th District, Private Shabaddeep Singh Jammu, to obtain long-term religious accommodation.
“Ever since I was 18, I’ve wanted to enlist, so this is a dream come true,” said Shabaddeep Singh Jammu. “This is a step toward showing America that as Sikhs we love this country, that this is really our country, and I hope to see one day that every Sikh can serve in the military without needing a religious accommodation,” said Shabaddeep Singh Jammu.
“As a patriotic Sikh American, the ideals of service and moral character that Private Jammu holds are both prized by the Army and integral to his faith. We are better served when Private Jammu is serving the country that he loves, and I’m happy that all Sikhs in the army will be eligible for that same long-term accommodation,” said Rep. Ami Bera.
Since taking office, Bera has led a years-long effort on behalf of Sikhs in law enforcement, sport, and the military.
Bera, along with Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY), pushed the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) to change its policy requiring Sikhs and other players to remove articles of faith during international competition, in addition to multiple letters signed by dozens of Members of Congress urging FIBA’s board to end its discriminatory policy against players who wear turbans.