Sailors, Marines search spiritual lodging to put on beards

(RNS) — Shave or be Shaved. Aboard the united statesTheodore Roosevelt, sailor Edmund Di Liscia confronted a stark selection. In step with his attorneys, he was once instructed to both shave his beard voluntarily or be held down through his bunk mate and forcibly shaved. For Di Liscia, a working towards Hasidic Jew who had now not shaved for greater than two years, it was once a decision between his loyalty to the U.S. Army and his spiritual religion.

Di Liscia is considered one of a number of sailors and marines who’re looking for spiritual lodging to put on beards whilst in uniform.  

Previous this yr, Di Liscia, at the side of 3 Muslim sailors, joined in a lawsuit introduced through the Beckett Fund for Spiritual Liberty, alleging the Army’s beard coverage quantities to a contravention of the Spiritual Freedom Recovery Act. The Pentagon has allowed army staff to request spiritual lodging to uniforms underneath the Spiritual Freedom Recovery Act since 2014. The Military and Air Drive have allowed beards as a non secular lodging for Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and Norse heathen provider participants who’ve asked them. 

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Di Liscia were granted a “no-shave” chit in 2018 as a morale measure. Whilst the Army has granted spiritual exemptions up to now, they’ve now not at all times held. Leandros Katsareas, a Petty Officer third Elegance, was once granted an exemption ultimate yr to put on a four-inch beard however was once knowledgeable this yr the exemption may well be revoked. Dominque Braggs, every other Muslim sailor of the similar rank, was once given a well being exemption because of pseudofolliculitis barbae, sometimes called razor burn. Braggs should nonetheless shave continuously and is looking for a non secular exemption. Petty Officer 2d Elegance Mohammed Shoyeb in the past asked and was once denied a non secular exemption, a scenario his attorney describes as in particular irritating for the reason that 3 sailors on his vessel were granted scientific exemptions from shaving because of razor burn.

Beards have been commonplace within the U.S. army till Global Struggle I when considerations in regards to the seal of length gasoline mask have been a subject matter. Some 100,000 squaddies died because of chemical gasoline throughout that warfare. The Army allowed beards starting in 1970, most effective to opposite the coverage within the mid-Eighties — a directive that was once quickly adopted through the Coast Guard. Militaries world wide have various insurance policies referring to beards. Significantly the navies of the UK and Australia permit sailors to put on beards. 

Examples of waiver-approved spiritual attire types for turbans, from left, hijabs and beards within the U.S. Air Drive. Now not all branches of the U.S. military adhere to the similar get dressed code insurance policies. Footage courtesy of USAF

“These days the Army makes use of positive-pressure gasoline mask. That is essential as a result of, in an emergency, should you snatch a gasoline masks, there’s no ensure it’s going to are compatible. So in real-life eventualities, there may be going to be not up to an ideal seal,” mentioned Eric Baxter, a attorney with the Becket Fund for Spiritual Liberty.

The US Army got rid of an enduring exemption in 2019 from shaving for individuals who be afflicted by razor burn. Those that declare a scientific exemption for razor bumps should now shave periodically to turn out they nonetheless be afflicted by the situation, which will in some cases result in everlasting scars. The coverage had a disproportionate affect on African American provider participants. Research have proven that up to 60% of African American males be afflicted by pseudofolliculitis barbae. 

An not going spice up for the exchange within the Army’s coverage got here from the Marine Corps. Previous this yr First Lieutenant Sukhbir Singh Toor, a working towards Sikh, won acclaim for restricted spiritual lodging from the Marine Corps for his religion. He’s believed to be the primary turbaned Sikh to obtain such an lodging, even though his attorneys have criticized the stern requirements installed position through the Marine Corps.

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“He’s compelled to take away his turban and beard every time assigned to a ceremonial unit, and to shave his beard when deployed and receiving Antagonistic Hearth Pay or Drawing close Risk Pay. Accordingly, we are actually bearing in mind our ultimate choices ahead of litigation,” mentioned Graham West, the communications director of the Sikh Coalition.

The Beckett Fund says a call isn’t most probably till subsequent yr for the 4 sailors looking for spiritual lodging. For the time being, the Beckett Fund says the Army has agreed to permit all 4 males spiritual lodging to put on beards whilst the case is pending.

“That call would appear to undercut the Army’s argument that permitting those sailors to put on beards poses some kind of chance,” mentioned Baxter.

Had been the Army and Marines to permit beards for energetic provider staff when in uniforms, it might have a much broader affect at the factor. Different sides of the government and first-responder organizations may well be impacted.

“The previous few years have observed substantial development in efforts to verify participants of minorities and inclined or traditionally excluded teams are welcome in public provider,” mentioned Ahmad Maaty, the Chair of Muslim American citizens in Public Carrier.

“Spiritual minorities don’t need to be positioned able of opting for between their religion and public provider. Moreover, the arbitrary and capricious varieties of growing conformance, even to how one manages their hair, is out of date and doesn’t focal point on what truly issues in public provider: efficiency,” he mentioned.


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