Sikh Marine Corps Recruits Can Keep Their Beards During Basic Training, Court Rules

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Melanie Wilcox Contributor
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Two Sikh men starting basic training with the U.S. Marine Corps, Jaskirat Singh and Milaap Singh Chahal, will not have to shave their beards after a federal appeals court granted a preliminary injunction Friday, court documents show.

The two men, along with Capt. Sukhbir Singh Toor, filed a lawsuit against the Marine Corps in April. A third recruit, Aekash Singh, was also involved in the April suit. The ruling states the U.S. District Court should reconsider Aekash’s related case, since he adjusted the timing of when he plans to enlist, The Hill reported.

U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Patricia Millet deemed all three men want to serve America and have the proper credentials to do so. She further determined the Marine Corps did not give a strong enough argument in favor of its standard 13-week grooming protocol required for new recruits going through boot camp training, The New York Times (NYT) reported. The Corps previously said it would comply with the recruits’ religious commitments after basic training was completed. (RELATED: A Sikh Man’s Beard Cost Him His Job. Kamala Harris Said It Was The Right Move)

“The balance of equities and the public interest weigh strongly in favor of issuing the injunction,” Judge Millett wrote, according to the ruling. “And they are now suffering and will continue to suffer grave, immediate, and ongoing injuries to the exercise of their faith.”

In response to the Marine Corps’ policy that the beards go against troop uniformity, Millett argued the Marine Corps allows for exceptions regarding tattoos anywhere except the neck, head and hands, as well as women’s long hair, the NYT reported. The court also argued men in the Marine Corps have the option of growing a short beard if they experience razor bumps on their skin after shaving, the ruling shows.