Washington, DC – Today, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals granted a preliminary injunction to allow two Sikh men to immediately begin serving in the US Marine Corps (USMC) with their articles of faith. The US District Court remanded a previous denial of a third Sikh man’s case for further consideration.
“With this injunction and remand of the District Court’s decision, our clients are finally out of the ‘legal limbo’ that has barred them from their careers of service for more than two years,” said Giselle Klapper, Sikh Coalition Senior Staff Attorney. “The simple truth is that articles of faith pose no barrier to effective job performance–not in the USMC, nor anywhere else across the public and private sectors.”
The Sikh Coalition, Winston & Strawn, the Becket Fund, and BakerHostetler, with support from the Sikh American Veterans Alliance (SAVA), filed suit against the US Department of Defense on April 11, 2022, on behalf of four clients: USMC Captain (Capt) Sukhbir Singh Toor and pre-accession Marine recruits Mr. Milaap Singh Chahal, Mr. Aekash Singh, and Mr. Jaskirat Singh. One component of that lawsuit was a push to allow Mr. Chahal, Mr. Singh, and Mr. Singh to maintain their articles of faith while in training–something the USMC prohibited in all three men’s limited religious accommodations, said the Sikh Coalition in a press release. Today’s injunction will allow Mr. Chahal and Mr. Jaskirat Singh to proceed to bootcamp with their articles of faith immediately. As Mr. Aekash Singh plans to attend Officer Candidate School rather than Recruit Training, the Court of Appeals ordered his case to be reconsidered by the District Court in light of the former’s ruling.
“This injunction affirms what we already know to be true: the Marine Corps has no justification for forcing individuals to sacrifice their sincerely held religious beliefs as a condition for serving our country,” said Eric Baxter, Senior Counsel and Vice President of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “This immediate relief opens the door for two of our clients to move forward in their lives and careers without rejecting their faith and positively asserts the rights of the other two as these legal proceedings continue.”
“Our own military and militaries around the world know well that Sikhs with turbans, beards, and other articles of faith are capable of honorable and distinguished military service,” said Brian W. Song, Partner at BakerHostetler. “This injunction should be a wake up call for the U.S. Marine Corps to recognize that fact as well–especially as our Armed Forces move towards becoming more diverse, more inclusive, and more representative of the America they protect.”