Pentagon relaxes rules on religious wear for service members

By Daniel S Levine,

The Pentagon will relax rules on personal religious wear for those serving in the U.S. military. Service members will be allowed to apply for religious accommodations to wear a turban, a yarmulke, beard or other signs of religious beliefs while in uniform.

NBC News obtained a Department of Defense instruction that the military will now accommodate “individual expressions of sincerely held beliefs” for service members. The instruction notes that a commander can approve an application, unless the religious wear would have an impact on a mission.

An accommodation can be denied if the “needs of mission accomplishment outweigh the needs of the service member,” the instruction notes.

According to Voice of America, the Pentagon previously did not have a policy on religious wear until today’s announcement. The waivers can also cover religious practices and specific prayer times.

The decision follows a Sikh American major who said that Sikhs in the military should be allowed to wear turbans and beards.

Under the new instruction, a Jewish service member could apply to wear a yarmulke and a Muslim could apply to carry prayer beads and wear a beard. Applications can also cover religious tattoos and jewelry.

Pentagon statistics show that there are 3,700 Muslims, almost 6,300 Buddhists and over 1,500 Wiccans in the military, reports NBC News.

image: Wikimedia Commons

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