Recently, the U.S. Army issued a decision allowing Capt. Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi to keep his beard and continue to wear a turban in accordance with his Sikh faith. Though the army generally does not allow long hair and turbans, cutting hair is against the Sikh religion, so people like Kalsi have to choose between serving their country and following their religious traditions.
I commend the Army’s decision in this case. If Kalsi can do his job while adhering to his beliefs, why should the Army interfere?
Kalsi’s case creates an opportune moment to re-examine policies concerning unshorn hair, beards and turbans for other uniformed services and agencies from the military down to the local level. State and local police officers, corrections officers, mass transit workers and other uniformed workers should not have to choose between following their religion and serving the public.
The idea that an individual might be coerced into violating religious principles in order to keep his or her job is antithetical to the First Amendment guarantee that the government will neither promote nor prohibit religious practice. In short, the government must allow all workers, including those in uniform, to maintain their religious practices so long as they do not pose a safety hazard.
If an individual is willing to risk his or her life in service to America, the least we can do is respect that individual’s right to religious observance. Each individual who wears a turban should not have to go through the arduous process of seeking special permission. It is time to change the rules across the board so religious freedom continues to ring.
©2009 Community News Group
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