We represented Iknoor Singh, a Sikh college student whose application to enlist in Army ROTC was denied because, in accordance with Sikh beliefs, he wished to maintain his articles of faith (including his beard, his uncut hair, and his turban). In November 2014, we sued the Army under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which prohibits the United States from “substantially burden[ing] a person’s exercise of religion” unless the government “demonstrates that application of the burden to the person—(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”
In June 2015, the district court ruled in our favor, ordering the Army to allow Mr. Singh to enroll in the ROTC program while wearing his articles of faith, although making clear that its decision “does not address plaintiff’s eventual receipt of a contract or an Army commission.”
Mr. Singh successfully completed the 2015 ROTC summer program, but ultimately did not complete the full ROTC program.
In January 2017, the Army announced that brigade-level commanders will now be able to grant accommodations to servicemen and women who wear beards, turbans, or hijabs for religious reasons.