U.S. Marines Can’t Deny Basic Training to Sikhs because of Beards, Other Articles of Faith

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Sikh devotee at Sis Ganj Gurdwara in Delhi, India
Source: Goncaloferreira/Dreamstime.com

Two Sikh men, Milaap Singh Chahal and Jaskirat Singh, won an injunction against the U.S. Marines on Dec. 23, 2022, which will allow them to enter basic training without shaving their beards or hair. 

The U.S. Marines contended that the uniform grooming policy was necessary as part of the overall dress code to encourage a team mindset by stripping away individuality. However, accommodations are made for Marines with skin sensitivities that result in razor burn (pseudofolliculitis barbae), for women’s diverse hairstyles, and for tattoos. The Marines have also granted exceptions for Sikh Marines after the 13 week training period, but do not allow exceptions in combat. 

Amandeep S. Sidhu, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs, stated, “Today’s injunction is a step forward in the direction of other recent policy changes in the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force that have allowed more than 100 Sikhs to serve with their articles of faith. Now, we must look towards a comprehensive policy change in the U.S. Marine Corps that will make full equality of opportunity in that branch a reality for all Americans, regardless of their faith tradition.”

Sikh men, who believe military service and defending the rights of others is a religious duty, wear long beards and do not cut their hair to honor what God has given. They also wear turbans and steel bracelets as an outward expression of their faith. 

The case will continue in order to address whether another plaintiff, Aekash Singh, may serve (the court could not consider “immediate harm” because he delayed entry) and whether Captain Sukhbir Singh Toor may wear his articles of faith while deployed.

Discussion Questions

1. Should the military allow members to wear articles of faith? Why or why not?

2. Does the military’s dress code (including grooming standards) instill a team mindset? Explain your answer(s).

3. What other exceptions might be made to the military dress code? What exceptions should not be made? Explain your answer(s), including the advantages and disadvantages of each exception.


Halisia Hubbard, “Sikh Men Can Serve in the Marine Corps without Shaving Their Beards, Court Says,” npr.org, Dec. 24, 2022

Irene Loewenson, “2 Sikhs Can Now Enter Marine Boot Camp with Turbans and Beards,” marinecorpstimes.com, Dec 23, 2022

Frances Kai-Hwa Wang, “U.S. Marine Corps Compelled to Allow Sikh Americans to Begin Basic Training with Turbans, Beards,” pbs.org, Jan. 6, 2023