Saturday, January 8, 2011

Rabbi Sues Army Over No-Beard Policy Discrimination (Waved For Muslims, Not For Jews)

Consistency is important; either exceptions are allowed for religious reasons or not. It should not be exceptions for one religion and not another.

"A rabbi from Brooklyn, N.Y., is suing the Army over its “no-beard” policy, claiming the service violated his religious freedoms when it rejected him because he refuses to shave.

Menachem M. Stern’s lawsuit argues the Army is discriminating against him because it has waived the “no-beard” rule for several Sikhs and a Muslim, but not for him. Advocates hope the case, if successful, will pave the way for more bearded rabbis to become chaplains and minister to historically underserved Jewish soldiers.

“While they’re stalling me, they’re taking in other religions, for instance, Sikhs and Muslims with beards and turbans at the same time,” Stern said. “At that point, my question became, ‘Who says yes and who says no?’ It shows how in a great institution such as the Army, the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.”

In the suit, filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 8, Stern included his correspondence with the Army from 2009. In it, Stern informed the Army he would not shave. The Army nevertheless granted him a commission as a Reserve first lieutenant, and then it rescinded the offer the next day, citing an “administrative error” and the “no-beard” policy.

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