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January 23, 2014

US Military to Allow Troops to Outwardly Display Religious Beliefs

by VOA News

The U.S. military says its troops can now outwardly display their religious beliefs, such as growing beards or wearing a turban, as long as it does not impair the country's defense mission.

Until now, the Defense Department has not had a consistent policy on religious accommodations. But under the new policy, the Pentagon said military personnel can seek individual waivers to wear religious clothing, seek prayer time or engage in religious practice.

A military spokesman said the religious requests would be granted unless it would have "an adverse effect on military readiness, mission accomplishment, unit cohesion and good order and discipline." The Pentagon said that "expression of sincerely held beliefs" would not be used for "adverse personnel action" against any military service personnel.

Under the new rules, Jewish troops will be able to seek a waiver to wear a yarmulke, and Sikhs could request to wear a turban and grow a beard. Others could ask for specific times to pray, ask that they be allowed to carry prayer beads or various religious symbols or wear religious body art.