Religious exemptions to uniform regulations in the U.S. Army are now easier to obtain. A change, the Army said, enables it to recruit from a greater range of American citizens.
The new rule will make it possible for Brigade commanders to grant permission for religious persons such as Sikhs, Muslims and others to wear turbans, beards, headscarves and other symbols of religious devotion The Wall Street Journal reported.
Commanders were instructed to only deny such exemptions if it is a “concrete hazard” to the soldier or if the commander believes the soldier does not hold a sincere religious belief.
“The Army has reviewed its policies to ensure soldiers can serve in a manner consistent with their faith so that we can recruit from the broadest pool of America’s best,” Army Secretary Eric Fanning said in a statement. “This directive provides the guidance our leaders and soldiers need and enables the Army to better reflect the nation and citizenry it protects.”
Harsimran Kaur, legal director of the Sikh Coalition, said the new policy is a step toward ending employment discrimination in the U.S. military since it banned visible articles of faith in 1981.
The Wall Street Journal reported that this new policy only applies to the U.S. Army. Service members of other branches of the military are still required to adhere to their respective uniform regulations.