Pentagon to allow religious beards, tattoos, piercings in some cases

The Pentagon will become more accommodating to individuals’ respective religions, according to updated instruction released today. 

A new Pentagon policy states that military departments will accommodate religious requests from individual service members unless a request would interfere with military readiness, a mission, unit cohesion, or good order and discipline. 

This would include religious clothing, facial hair, religious tattoos and piercings. The changes come after a Sikh American Army major complained to congressional staffers that fellow Sikhs should be able to wear a turban or maintain a beard while in uniform.

Each request will be decided on a case-by-case basis, and some decisions can be made by immediate commanders, while others will have to be referred back to their respective military service.

The new policy is intended to reduce the instances and perception of discrimination toward those whose religious expressions are less familiar to the command, said Pentagon spokesman Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nathan J. Christiansen. 

"The Department of Defense places a high value on the rights of members of the military services to observe the tenets of their respective religions and the rights of others to their own religious beliefs,"  "including the right to hold no beliefs," Christensen said.