US Navy sued for not letting a Muslim wear a beard

By R. Siva Kumar - 29 Dec '14 09:05AM

Some people obviously love their beards enough to take it out to sea. There is this Muslim group, for instance, which is filing a charge against the Navy for Jonathan Berts of Fairfield. The lawsuit was filed this week in the U.S. District Court, Sacramento.

He wanted to keep his beard on January 2011. But the Defense Department did not permit religious exemption from grooming, according to

Last January, the Pentagon relaxed its policy and permitted the beard for his religious beliefs. However, it was too late to help Berts, according to his advocates at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Some people call CAIR such a radical group that it was called a "terrorist organization" by the United Arab Emirates. They put it on the same platform as al Qaeda, ISIS and others, according to

Berts says that when he asked for permission to keep his beard, he was made fun of. He adds that he was rejected for promotion too due to his beard. The Navy has declined to comment on the charge.

Berts is an African American Muslim who had joined in 2002. His request for religious accommodation was turned down, and he was also refused to be granted a promotion. He was subjected to "a barrage of derogatory terms, anti-Islamic slurs, and inappropriate lines of questions about his religious beliefs and loyalty to the United States," according to

Even the supervisor who had turned down his promotion to first class petty officer called him "camel jockey" and "towel head," according to the lawyers. Berts was a barracks instructor who gave instruction on military history and physical education to recruits at the Great Lakes naval base in Illinois. He was soon shifted to an "abandoned, roach-infested building" in which he was in solitary confinement, just looking over piles of decaying office equipment.

Berts had wanted to remain in the Navy, so he agreed to an "honorable discharge" in December 2011. But he applied re-enlistment many times since then. Although he manages many low-income apartment buildings in Fairfield, he still pursues work in the Naval Reserves with good evaluations, according to attorney Brice Hamack, the Muslim group's Northern California civil rights coordinator.

Hamack recalls that Berts was allowed to retain his beard in the first four years of employment in the Navy due to a skin condition, and was rejected only when he asked for permission to wear his beard for religious reasons.

In 2011, a Jew filed a suit against the US Army for not being permitted to wear a beard, according to

Fun Stuff

Join the Conversation

The Next Read

Real Time Analytics