WASHINGTON, D.C. (September 2, 2010) — McDermott Will & Emery LLP, lead counsel for Mr. Simran Preet Singh Lamba, announced today that it has succeeded in its efforts to secure for Mr. Lamba the right to maintain his religiously-mandated turban, beard and hair while serving in the U.S. Army, making him the first enlisted Sikh Soldier to be so accommodated by the U.S. military in over 30 years.
“Following the historic accommodations and successful integration of Captains Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi and Tejdeep Singh Rattan over the past nine months, we have been unwavering in our assertions that Mr. Lamba’s religious requirements in no way hinder his ability to effectively serve the United States,” said Amandeep S. Sidhu, McDermott’s lead counsel on this case. “We remain deeply impressed with the Army’s forward-thinking approach in allowing Mr. Lamba to serve with his turban and beard, and reaffirm our call for the Army to consider amendments to its uniform policy that continues to close the door to other Sikh Americans wanting to serve in the U.S. Army.”
Recruited by the Army in 2009 through the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program for his language skills in Punjabi and Hindi, Mr. Lamba was initially advised by an Army recruiter that his Sikh articles of faith would likely be accommodated. Subsequently, in March 2010, his formal request for a religious accommodation was denied. Mr. Lamba appealed the decision and his appeal was granted. This week, he is scheduled to begin basic training.
“I am grateful to Army leadership for allowing me to serve the United States,” said Mr. Lamba. “There is nothing about my Sikh religious beliefs that prevents me from excelling as a soldier. I look forward to serving this great country with honor.”
In response to McDermott’s lobbying efforts, Congress has become increasingly engaged in this issue. In the past year, more than 50 Members of Congress have written to military officials requesting that Sikhs be accepted into the U.S. Armed Forces. Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) have led these bipartisan efforts.
All three Sikh recruits were represented by McDermott Will & Emery LLP and attorneys at the Sikh Coalition, also a pro bono client of the firm. In addition to Mr. Sidhu, the McDermott team working on the case included attorneys H. Guy Collier, Stephen M. Ryan, David Ransom, Jennifer R. Belcher, and Shruti K. Tejwani.
Click here to view the October 2009 press release.
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