Sikhs must seek approval for turbans at every assignment, Pentagon says

The Pentagon said despite relaxing rules accommodating religious practices in the military, Sikhs and other religious members of the armed forces would have to seek permission to wear articles of faith at each assignment.  

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“Each unit of assignment has a different responsibility,” said Virginia S. Penrod, deputy assistant secretary of defense, at an Armed Services Committee hearing on Wednesday. “If it impacts safety, health [or] the unit, they may deny the accommodation.” 

The new Pentagon policy allows for service members to wear religious headgear, facial hair, tattoos or piercings as long as it does not interfere with mission accomplishment, safety or unit cohesion, among other factors. 

However, some Sikh service members say the policy change does not go far enough, and presents a “presumptive ban” against religious articles of faith, and that they still must seek approval from commanders.