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Case Name Singh v. Carter FA-DC-0020
Docket / Court 1:16-cv-00399-BAH ( D.D.C. )
State/Territory District of Columbia
Case Type(s) Equal Employment
Speech and Religious Freedom
Case Summary
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, ... read more >
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, the Sikh Coalition, and private counsel, asked the court for injunctive relief prohibiting the U.S. Army from forcing him to compromise his religious exercise. Specifically, the plaintiff claimed that the U.S. Army violated his First Amendment right to free expression of his religion. The defendants had required him to undergo extensive and repetitive testing to confirm that he could properly wear a combat helmet and a safety mask, while other soldiers with long hair and beards had not been subjected to the same 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. 168 F.Supp.3d 216.

The plaintiff also filed a motion for a preliminary injunction on February 29, requesting that the U.S. Army 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 plaintiffs in that case were reservists awaiting training rather than a West Point graduate on active duty as in this case. Additionally, the plaintiffs in the second case had not been forced to undergo the same testing that this plaintiff had objected to. 185 F. Supp. 3d 11.

On March 31, 2016, the defendants filed a notice that they had extended the plaintiff’s temporary accommodation to one year, or less in the event that military necessity assigned the plaintiff to another unit. In response, on May 23, 2016, the plaintiff filed an amended complaint stating that the extension did not negate the Army’s discriminatory regulations and practices. On June 20, 2016, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss.

On July 4, 2016, the plaintiff voluntarily dismissed the case without prejudice. In his filing, the plaintiff’s dismissal was made with the expectation that Sikh Americans would be successfully integrated into the U.S. military outside the context of this legal proceeding. This conclusion was supported by the following facts: (1) the defendants granted the plaintiff a ‘long-term accommodation’ which extended his earlier accommodation for at least one year from March 31, 2016; (2) the defendants had repeatedly written assurances that the plaintiff would not be subject to heightened, individualized testing concerning his helmet and safety mask; (3) while the Assistant Secretary of the Army intended to re-evaluate the plaintiff’s accommodation the following year, the plaintiff would not need to submit a new accommodation request; (4) the defendants planned to develop uniform standards for religious accommodations; (5) the plaintiff was not required to submit a new accommodation request with every new assignment, transfer of duty station, etc.; (6) no change would be made to the plaintiff’s accommodation without the evaluation being expeditiously forwarded to the Assistant Secretary; and (7) that a modification that substantially burdened the plaintiff’s religious exercise would only be permissible where the defendants could prove that they had a compelling interest to require modification, that modification was in furtherance of that interest, and that there was no less restrictive means of furthering that interest. These facts indicated that the plaintiff would not be subjected to adverse treatment by virtue of his faith for at least one year, by which time the plaintiff expected that the army would have legally sufficient accommodation guidelines in place.

On July 5, 2016, the case was dismissed without prejudice and signed by Judge Beryl A. Howell. The case is now closed.

Kat Brausch - 06/21/2016
Dawn Lui - 12/03/2018


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Free Exercise Clause
Content of Injunction
Develop anti-discrimination policy
Preliminary relief denied
Preliminary relief granted
Discrimination-area
Accommodation / Leave
Discrimination-basis
Religion discrimination
General
Disparate Treatment
Reasonable Accommodations
Religious programs / policies
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Religious Freedom Rest. Act/Religious Land Use and Inst. Persons Act (RFRA/RLUIPA)
Defendant(s) United States Department of Defense
Plaintiff Description An army officer and member of the Sikh faith.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Voluntary Dismissal
Filing Year 2016
Case Closing Year 2016
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
Docket(s)
1:16-cv-00399 (D.D.C.)
FA-DC-0020-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/05/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
FA-DC-0020-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/29/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion [regarding the plaintiff's 2 Application for Temporary Restraining Order] [ECF# 9] (D.D.C.)
FA-DC-0020-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/29/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion [regarding the plaintiff's 3 Motion for Preliminary Injunction, 39 Motion to Consolidate, and 43 Expedited Motion for Status Conference] [ECF# 47] (D.D.C.)
FA-DC-0020-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/06/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended Complaint [ECF# 49]
FA-DC-0020-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/23/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Rule 41(a)(1)(A) Notice of Voluntary Dismissal Without Prejudice [ECF# 52]
FA-DC-0020-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/04/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Howell, Beryl Alaine (D.D.C.) show/hide docs
FA-DC-0020-0002 | FA-DC-0020-0003 | FA-DC-0020-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Baxter, Eric S. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-DC-0020-0001 | FA-DC-0020-0004 | FA-DC-0020-0005 | FA-DC-0020-9000
Blomberg, Daniel Howard (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-DC-0020-0001 | FA-DC-0020-0004 | FA-DC-0020-0005 | FA-DC-0020-9000
Dang, Harsimran Kaur (California) show/hide docs
FA-DC-0020-0005
Ilter, Emre N. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-DC-0020-0001 | FA-DC-0020-0004 | FA-DC-0020-0005 | FA-DC-0020-9000
Kaur, Gurjot (New York) show/hide docs
FA-DC-0020-0001 | FA-DC-0020-0004 | FA-DC-0020-0005 | FA-DC-0020-9000
Rassbach, Eric C (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-DC-0020-0001 | FA-DC-0020-0004 | FA-DC-0020-0005 | FA-DC-0020-9000
Sidhu, Amandeep S. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-DC-0020-0001 | FA-DC-0020-0004 | FA-DC-0020-0005 | FA-DC-0020-9000
Verm, Diana Marie (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-DC-0020-0001 | FA-DC-0020-0004 | FA-DC-0020-0005 | FA-DC-0020-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Everett, Daniel James (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-DC-0020-9000
Grace, Derrick Wayne (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-DC-0020-9000
Pfaffenroth, Peter C (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-DC-0020-9000

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