Why allow one soldier to wear a beard and a turban and not all?

I don’t get the logic behind allowing an exemption for a Sikh U.S. Army soldier to wear a beard and a turban while other soldiers are not allowed to wear beards and headgear other than the standard uniform.

This is not the first time such an exemption has been made and it is only on a trial basis.

But again, what is the logic? Out of uniform is out of uniform no matter what your religion. And why should someone with a religion get special treatment? What is the difference if I just want to grow a beard or if my so-called religion dictates I should. And who decides whether one is really following the dictates of a bona fide religion or just wants to have a beard?

When I was in the army there was talk, unofficial perhaps, of allowing black soldiers to wear mustaches, while at the time white soldiers were not allowed to (and as far as I know are not now in most cases). The idea was that it was part of their custom. As if white people never had face hair.

If wearing face hair is not good for looking like a soldier or if it interferes with the use of equipment or creates a safety hazard or all of the above then there should be no exceptions. And in the case of religious requirements, if one religion is given special treatment, what about the others?

And is not the government supposed to be neutral on religion and not favor one over the other?

Now don’t get me wrong. I have no personal problem with the Sikh soldier wearing a beard and turban. I just don’t get the need for special treatment.

And why should religious customs have any bearing on military requirements? The military is not civilian life. There are required sacrifices.

I know the Navy at one time (or at various times?) allowed beards and not based on religion, at least not at the time that I recall during the Viet Nam War (or was it just after?) as a morale booster.

Uniformity and uniforms are important for a well-disciplined military and militaries certainly have to be well-disciplined to be effective.

I personally don’t think allowing exemptions is good for discipline or morale.


For your reference, an article about the case in point:


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