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Pentagon Rescinds Directive Limiting Wearing of Yarmulkes

U.S. Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci last week rescinded a Pentagon directive that would have allowed military officers to bar the wearing of visible religious garb “under unique circumstances, such as basic and initial military skills and specialty training.”

The original directive was issued Feb. 3, to help implement a bill signed into law a few weeks earlier that protected, among other things, the right of Orthodox Jews in the military to wear “neat and conservative” yarmulkes, as long as they do not interfere in the performance of military duties.

Rep. Stephen Solarz (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who sponsored the bills in Congress last year, argued in a May 6 letter to Carlucci that the directive “would undermine, if not eliminate, the effect of the religious apparel amendment.”

“Preventing an Orthodox Jew from wearing a yarmulke during initial military training would represent severe blows to his religious observance as well as to his morale,” they told Carlucci.

Stephen Silbiger, Washington representative of the American Jewish Congress, called Carlucci’s Sept. 29 move “a victory for religious freedom.”

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