Citadel rejects Muslim female cadet's request to wear headscarf

From ABC News 4 (S.C)

By Sam Tyson

A Muslim student admitted to the Class of 2020 Corps of Cadets at The Citadel will not be allowed to wear a religious headscarf with the military college's standard uniform.

In a statement released by Citadel President Lt. Gen. John Rosa, the decision to reject the request came from an "essential" need to standardize the appearance of the cadets regardless of their religious requirements.

"This process reflects an initial relinquishing of self during which cadets learn the value of teamwork to function as a single unit. Upon graduation, The Citadel's graduates are prepared to enter a life committed to principled leadership in military service and civilian careers," Rosa said in the statement.

Rosa says while the request was rejected, religious beliefs are respected at The Citadel and freshman cadets meet with a number of faith-based organizations from the community. The school also offers rides to and from places of worship and accommodates dietary and prayer requirements.

"The diversity of religions and cultural backgrounds represented in the Corps enriches the overall cadet experience and better prepares graduates to become principled leaders in all walks of life, underpinned by The Citadel's core values of honor, duty and respect," Rosa said.

The incoming freshman cadet's request was made known by another cadet, Nick Pinelli, who posted on Facebook his thoughts on the request and The Citadel's decision to consider it.

"The system is what's important. It's not about her or her religion. I have to put my cross under my shirt but I also have to put my dog tags under my shirt. It's not the cross they care about," he said.

Citadel cadets are required to wear uniforms nearly all of the time. The school has a 35-page booklet of rules and regulations addressing military courtesies and uniforms. There is no mention of religious accommodation for uniforms in either the Blue or White books, the two cadet manuals for the military college. Chapter 7 of the White Book addresses uniform regulations.

There is, however, a memo regarding religious accommodation that was sent out in 2010 and gives an example of cadets of the LDS faith asking to attend Saturday services.

According to page 46 of the U.S. Army Regulation AR 600-20, religious headgear may be worn while in the Army uniform if the headgear is subdued in color, can be completely covered by standard military headgear, and does not interfere with the wear or proper functioning of protective clothing or equipment. The other service branches have similar policies, based on Dept. of Defense Directive 1300.17, Accommodation of Religious Practices within the Military Services.

The school, with its strict discipline and rich tradition, was embroiled in controversy during the 1990s as it fought and later relented the admittance of its first woman cadet, Shannon Faulkner. Earlier this year, 14 cadets were dismissed, suspended or served on-campus punishments after several of them appeared in photos with pillowcases on their heads similar to Ku Klux Klan garb.

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