By Julian E. Barnes
The Pentagon announced Wednesday it had relaxing uniform rules to allow troops to wear jewelry and apparel as well as groom their hair to comply with requirements of their religion.
Military service members will have to request exemptions from current uniform rules from their commanders, and in some cases higher headquarters. But religious garb that had previously been banned, including head coverings or pendants, is likely to be allowed under the new rules (PDF of directive).
In addition to religious apparel, jewelry and facial hair, the new rules specifically allow tattoos and body piercings that are religious in nature.
“All requests for accommodation of religious practices will be assessed on a case-by-case basis,” said Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Christensen, a Pentagon spokesman. “Each request must be considered based on its unique facts.”
Cmdr. Christensen said that military commanders will base approval of the request based on whether it could impact “unit cohesion” and the ability of a military unit to complete its assigned missions.
The directive also says that requests can be denied if the religious item would cause a safety hazard or interferes with protective equipment, like a flak jacket, flight suit or camouflage uniforms.
Military officials wouldn’t say if the new rules would allow Muslim headscarves, but the new rules appear drafted to accommodate such requests. Indeed, the changes come after Sikhs pressed the military to allow members of their faith to grow beards, keep their hair uncut and wear turbans, as required by their faith.
In recent years, the military has begun to accommodate the religious requirement of Sikhs and the new directive extends that accommodation more broadly.
The new directive also now specifically protects the rights of non-believers, noting that the department “places a high value on the rights of members of the Military Services to observe the tenets of their respective religions or to observe no religion at all.” http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2014/01/22/u-s-military-relaxes-rules-on-religious-garb/?mod=WSJBlog&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+wsj%2Fwashwire%2Ffeed+%28WSJ.com%3A+Washington+Wire%29