A 26-year-old Sikh-American officer in the US Marines who has been allowed to wear the turban – the first person in the 246-year history of the elite force allowed to do so – but with a few limitations, plans to sue the Corps if he is not granted full religious accommodation, according to a media report.
“Almost every morning for five years, First Lieutenant Sukhbir Toor has pulled on the uniform of the United States Marine Corps. On Thursday, he also got to put on the turban of a faithful Sikh,” a report in the New York Times said.
Lt. Toor’s turban is a first in the 246-year history of the Marine Corps, which has almost never allowed deviations from its hallowed image, the New York Times report said.
“I finally don’t have to pick which life I want to commit to, my faith or my country. I can be who I am and honour both sides,” Lt. Toor said in an interview.
When Lt. Toor was promoted as Captain this spring, he decided to appeal.
Lt. Toor’s case is the latest in a long-running conflict between two fundamental values in the United States military: “the tradition of discipline and uniformity, and the constitutional liberties the armed forces were created to defend,” the New York Times said.
However, Lt. Toor, who grew up in Washington and Ohio and is the son of Indian immigrants, has been allowed to wear the Turban while on duty with limitations. He “can wear a turban in daily dress at normal duty stations, but not while deployed to a conflict zone, or when in dress uniform in a ceremonial unit, where the public could see it.”
The New York Times report said Lt. Toor has appealed the restrictive decision to the Marine Corps commandant, and he says that if he does not get a full accommodation, he will sue the Corps.
“We’ve come a long way, but there is still more to go,” he said in the New York Times report. “The Marine Corps needs to show it really means what it has been saying about strength in diversity – that it doesn’t matter what you look like, it just matters that you can do your job.
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