The Orthodox Union – the nations largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization – commends U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) for urging the U.S. Army to repeal a regulation banning facial hair in order to allow rabbis with beards to serve as chaplains.
Sen. Gillibrand’s actions are in direct response to a lawsuit filed by Rabbi Menachem Stern in December 2010. In this lawsuit against the U.S. Army, Stern claims that the Army refused his services as a chaplain because he would not shave his beard.
This is not the first time that Workplace Religious Freedom issues have come into question in the public service sector. In 1998 the City of Newark ordered its police officers to be clean-shaven, making an exception only for medical conditions. Two Muslim members of the police filed a lawsuit complaining that their freedom of religion was being violated. In 1999 the District Court ruled in their favor, and it was affirmed by the Third Circuit, which found that the city had failed to provide a substantial justification for refusing to make accommodation for religious belief in this policy.
The OU commends Sen. Gillibrand for recognizing the unjust nature of this policy and for taking quick action to defend religious civil liberties.
Posted by IPA Staff