U.S. government sues Philadelphia schools over beard policy

PHILADELPHIA Wed Mar 5, 2014 10:39pm EST

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PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - The U.S. government sued Philadelphia's school district for religious discrimination on Wednesday for demanding that a veteran Muslim police officer trim his beard.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court by the Department of Justice, said the nation's eighth-largest school district passed a grooming policy in 2010 that mandated beards on police and security officers be no longer than one-quarter of an inch (6.35 mm).

The officer in question, Siddiq Abu-Bakr, keeps an untrimmed beard longer than one-quarter of an inch in adherence to his Islamic faith, the suit said.

Grooming policies that conflict with religious practice have

been an issue in institutions in other parts of the country. The Pentagon decided in January to ease rules on beards and turbans in the U.S. Army.

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to decide whether prison officials in Arkansas may prohibit inmates from growing beards in accordance with their religious beliefs.

In the Philadelphia case, Abu-Bakr has maintained an untrimmed beard for his 27 years with the district "without evidence that the maintenance of an uncut beard has interfered with his job performance," a Justice Department statement said.

The statement said that when Abu-Bakr told his supervisor that he could not cut his beard because of his beliefs, he was issued a written reprimand.

Abu-Bakr, who is still with the district, filed a charge of religious discrimination with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The government's lawsuit is seeking an injunction that would force the district to develop new, non-discriminatory grooming policies. It also seeks unspecified damages.

A representative for the school district was not immediately available for comment. The district employs 16,827 people.

(Reporting by Dave Warner; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Ken Wills)

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Comments (11)
AZ1811 wrote:
Why are abdicating reason for the faith that advocates the death of all non-believers? If the guy wants his beard fine – get another job. Don’t make the rules fit the religion. We are our own worst enemies letting this religion dictate our standards. It is not a religion, it is a HATE group.

Mar 05, 2014 11:42pm EST  --  Report as abuse
TheTruthSayer wrote:
Boston Redsox players might be upset, even Jesus would be upset at this.

Mar 05, 2014 11:44pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Anonarchist wrote:
why should he have to find a job when he’s proven his beard hasn’t caused interference for 27 years? why is his beard suddenly a problem now?

Mar 06, 2014 12:46am EST  --  Report as abuse
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