On February 29, 2016, a U.S. Army Captain and member of the Sikh faith filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The plaintiff sued the United States Department of Defense and the Army, among others, under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The plaintiff, ...
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On February 29, 2016, a U.S. Army Captain and member of the Sikh faith filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The plaintiff sued the United States Department of Defense and the Army, among others, under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The plaintiff, represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and the Sikh Coalition, as well as private counsel, asked the court for injunctive relief from the U.S. Army forcing him to further compromise his religious exercise. Specifically, the plaintiff claimed the U.S. Army violated his First Amendment right to free expression of his religion by requiring him to undergo extensive and repetitive testing to ensure that he can properly wear a combat helmet and a safety mask, while many others have been given dispensation to have long hair or beards but do not have to undergo such testing.
Prior to this action, the plaintiff was given temporary accommodations to keep his hair and beard unshorn and to wear a turban. However, these accommodations were set to expire on March 31. On February 29, the plaintiff filed a temporary restraining order preventing the defendants from subjecting him to non-standard or discriminatory testing. On March 3, Judge Beryl A. Howard granted the plaintiff’s motion and enjoined the defendants from subjecting the plaintiff to any such testing during the pendency of the litigation.
The plaintiff also filed a motion for a preliminary injunction on February 29 to enjoin the U.S. Army to grant him a permanent religious accommodation for his beard, hair, and turban. Judge Howell denied this motion on May 6, 2016, partially because the preliminary injunction would essentially encompass the relief sought in the underlying complaint. In the same memorandum opinion, Judge Howell also denied the plaintiff’s motion to consolidate his case with another Sikh accommodation case, because the circumstances in that second case were not precisely the same as in this case. Specifically, the plaintiffs in that case were reservists awaiting training rather than a West Point graduate on active duty; also, the other plaintiffs had not been forced to undergo the same testing that this plaintiff objected to.
On March 31, 2016, the defendants filed a notice that they had extended the plaintiff’s temporary accommodation to one year – or possibly less, based on military necessary if the plaintiff were assigned to another unit. In response, on May 23, 2016, the plaintiff filed an amended complaint stating that extending the temporary accommodation did not negate the Army’s discriminatory regulations and practices. On June 20, 2016, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss.
This case is currently ongoing. Kat Brausch - 06/21/2016