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CAIR Sues Pentagon Over Ban on Facial Hair

Joel Himelfarb

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Dec. 29, 2014

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has sued the federal government on behalf of a former Navy enlisted man who says he was discriminated against after seeking to wear a beard for religious reasons.

The plaintiff, Jonathan Berts of Fairfield, California, enlisted in the military in 2002. He sought the religious exemption in 2011, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The request was denied because at the time the Defense Department did not grant religiously motivated requests to allow facial hair. The Navy initially allowed Berts to wear the beard for four years because he had a skin condition.


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When he subsequently requested permission to grow his beard because of his Muslim faith, the request was denied, says a lawsuit Berts filed last week in U.S. District Court in Sacramento.

Berts, who is black, says his superiors prevented him from receiving a recommended promotion because of his beard. In addition, he claims to have suffered "a barrage of derogatory terms, anti-Islamic slurs, and inappropriate lines of questions about his religious beliefs and loyalty to the United States," the Daily Caller reported

The suit further claims that Berts was transferred from a job as an instructor to an "abandoned, roach-infested building" where he spent his days by himself watching over office equipment.


Although Berts agreed to an honorable discharge in 2011, he did not really want it and has applied for re-enlistment. He remains in the Naval Reserve.

Since Berts left active duty, the Defense Department has loosened its rules about facial hair as it relates to religious beliefs. 

"We appreciate that the Department of Defense has made strides in updating its stance on religious accommodations," CAIR attorney Brice Hamack told the Chronicle.

Nonetheless, Hamack insisted that the military "remedy the harm caused" to Berts.

In the lawsuit, Berts seeks to return to active naval service as well as a pension and other benefits.

CAIR itself has long been under fire over allegations of links to the Muslim Brotherhood. In a 2009 court decision, it was confirmed as a participant in a conspiracy to provide funds to Hamas, a designated terrorist organization, in Gaza.

Hamas has been revealed to be an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood, an international Islamist group with its headquarters in Egypt.

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