Opinion

Pentagon to relax uniform rules to make religious allowances; beards, turbans, jewelry OK

Marines at parade
Marines at Washington, D.C. July 4th parade, 2009 / Photo credit: www.flickr.com

The Pentagon is relaxing its rules on dress and grooming for service members seeking religious exemptions while in uniform — including the display of religious tattoos and jewelry, and even growing beards and wearing turbans.

The military is doing so in an effort to accommodate “individual expressions of sincerely held beliefs” of its personnel, its directive states, though such requests may be denied in instances where the “needs of mission accomplishment outweigh the needs of the service member,” according to NBC News.

The directive indicates that “it is particularly important to consider the effect on unit cohesion” when granting religious accommodations.

NBC reported:

Earlier this month, a major in the U.S. Army who is a Sikh American took his case to staffers on the Hill, explaining how he and other Sikhs should be able to serve in uniform and still maintain their religious beliefs, including wearing turbans and unshorn hair, including beards.

Department of Defense records indicate that there are only about three Sikh Americans serving in the in the U.S. military, however, nearly 3,700 self-professed Muslims and almost 6,300 Buddhists currently serve.

According to NBC:

Jewish service members can request permission to wear a yarmulke while in uniform. Muslim service members can request to wear a beard and carry prayer beads. Even Wiccan service members, those who practice “Magick,” can seek accommodation — the directive covers all religions recognized by the U.S. military.

Defense records indicate that more than 1,500 service members profess to be Wiccans.

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This, in my opinion, is another instance of the government taking a hard left turn to make a stop at political correctness.

If the military truly wants to accommodate the srtongly-held religious beliefs of its personnel, it should do exactly that — concentrate on beliefs and disregard the outward trappings of dress and grooming.

A service member should not be disciplined, for example, because his religious beliefs won’t allow him to accept same-sex marriage — if that’s what he believes.

Chaplains shouldn’t be punished for discussing religious dogma with those under their charge — that’s their job.

As for the beards, turbans and long hair, last time I checked, we still had an all-voluntary military. They knew the rules going in. If they didn’t like them, they should have joined the Peace Corps.

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