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Student files federal lawsuit against U.S. Army

By Lauren del ValleNEWS EDITOR Sophomore finance major Iknoor Singh filed a lawsuit suing the United States Army arguing that complying with Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) grooming and appearance policies requiring him to remove his turban, long hair and beard would mean violating his traditional Sikh practices. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and United Sikhs are supporting Singh in filing the case that formally commenced in the federal district court of Washington, D.C. last Wednesday Nov. 12. The organizations could not be reached for comment. The Sikh faith requires followers to maintain long hair and a beard while wearing a turban. The local resident of Kew Gardens in Queens argues that forcing him to directly renounce his faith violates his rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 aimed to prevent laws from infringing on a person’s freedom to exercise their religious practices. “I couldn’t believe the military was asking me to make the impossible decision of choosing between the country I love and my faith,” Singh said in an ACLU blog post. A Catch-22 binds Singh as Army policy allows soldiers to seek exemption for religious tenets, but Singh must be admitted as a cadet before having such an opportunity. Students must enroll in the ROTC program before the end of their sophomore year. Policy also prohibits students from auditing classes in their junior and senior semesters. He receives University credit for participating in classroom portions of the ROTC program, according to Hofstra ROTC commander Lt. Col. Daniel Cederman, but cannot partake in the practical application field training nor receive issued Army gear or wear a uniform. Formal litigation documentation, however, states that Singh does not receive credit. “Effectively he is currently auditing our classes and he is a great student,” said Lt. Col. Daniel Cederman. “Right now we are training him in basic leadership and things to the extent that we are allowed to under the current regulations.” It cannot yet be determined whether Singh will have the opportunity to graduate the ROTC program on schedule with his peers as the University cannot admit him unless the standardized Department of the Army policy changes. “My focus is training Mr. Singh to the best of our ability and making sure that if the policy is changed, he’s not too far behind his peers so he can still participate and work towards a commission,” Lt. Col. Cederman said. University Relations released a formal statement to the media expressing their support of Singh. “Hofstra University entirely supports Mr. Singh’s ambitions to serve his country. He is currently enrolled in the ROTC class and we are providing him leadership training to the extent that the U.S. Army has allowed. We very much hope that the Army will permit us to enroll Mr. Singh in the program as a full Cadet,” the University release said.

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