Diversity is good for the military

I am writing in response to Brian Dent’s lamentation of Sikhs and Muslims being allowed to express their religion in the U.S. military. Freedom of Religion in the U.S. wasn’t based on Judeo-Christian values, but as a rejection of state-sanctioned religion. There was a time in the colonies where Quakers would be attacked or even hanged by Puritans, who controlled many local governments. James Madison, who drafted the Bill of Rights, is historically considered a deist, as there is no evidence he held specific ties to any religious movement such as Christianity.

In this context, Christians in the U.S. are in no way being attacked or “destroyed from within” by allowing some religious expression in the military. This move comes as a result of successful lobbying by Sikhs already serving in the military, some as decorated heroes. The Obama administration likely had input on the Department of Defense ruling, but this was not an executive order. Regardless of religious affiliation, citizens who can perform the duties of military service should be allowed to serve.

Clean, cut facial hair was once fashionable among officers and generals in the Civil War. The policy of banning beards took place only recently in the 1980s. Regarding turbans, they can be designed and constructed to fit military uniform schemes. Sikhs serving now already wear uniform-appropriate turbans. The only objections to beards and turbans are functionality (which doesn’t seem to be a problem) and a biased perception of what uniforms can look like.

Religious minorities are nothing to fear. The black Muslim community has been in the United States for decades. Islam is growing within Latino communities as well. A majority of Muslims, regardless of ethnicity, are nonviolent. Our perception of Muslim violence is skewed by media reports, not reality. Sikhs, of course, have a long history of proudly serving. It’s stated that over 100,000 Sikhs served the Allied forces in World War I. A traditionally clothed Sikh, Bhagat Singh Thind, even served the United States military though he only became a citizen years later.

Unmentioned by Dent, Jewish military chaplains have also fought against the ban on beards. How are they excluded by so-called “Judeo-Christian values?”

It’s sad that Dent chooses to write about this issue rather than the heart-breaking, devastating rate of suicide among serving personnel and military veterans, or the problem of sexual assault within a mostly Christian military.