As understood by the God-fearing people who fled to a new land in search of religious liberty, our country was founded on the idea that all citizens are free to exercise their religion in their daily lives, including while at work. Thus, when the ACLJ was contacted by an individual, a Messianic Christian, who was told he could no longer come to work without shaving his beard, we rolled up our sleeves to get to work on protecting his rights.
Our client hasn’t shaved his beard in the past 35 years because of his religious beliefs based on ancient Biblical tradition. Once his public employer mandated a no-beard policy, he wrote a very detailed and compelling explanation in a letter addressed to his supervisors for why he cannot remove his beard. In a very unconstitutional response, he was told that he must take unpaid leave indefinitely until he shaves his beard.
This is outrageous. Not only did this violate his First Amendment right to practice his religion, but it was also without warrant. Our client’s line of work is purely administrative, where he uses a computer in his own private office without external interaction. There also was no doubt as to the sincerity of his beliefs. In fact, he had already been granted religious accommodation to observe the Sabbath as well as specific annual religious feasts.
But just like with other violations of our protected rights, his superior’s reasoning essentially came down to “it’s required because we are in the middle of a pandemic.”CatholicMatch