Constitutitional Debate over Muslim Police Officers' Right to Wear Beards

June 26, 1998

Source: The New York Times

On June 26, 1998, the New York Times reported on a dispute in Federal appeals court: while the Newark, NJ police force requires clean-shaven officers and seeks to dismiss officers not in compliance, two Muslim officers are pursuing the right to wear beards due to religious obligation. "As the arguments unfolded in the old Federal courthouse, the case presented many incongruities. For one, it involves two black officers who are asserting their individuality in a predominantly black city with a black political leadership while being defended by the predominantly white leadership of the Fraternal Order of Police, the officers' union. In addition, their case is supported by an uncommon alliance of the American Civil Liberties Union; the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish organization, and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a public interest law firm that argues for wider expression of religious, and generally Christian, traditions." The judges are now considering the case.