1/23/14 STARS AND STRIPES – Pentagon eases rules on waivers for religious grooming

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  • WASHINGTON — A clean shave and a boot-camp buzz cut are no longer mandatory for adherents of religions whose grooming practices differ from those traditionally required by the U.S. military.The Pentagon announced Wednesday that beards, turbans, religious body art and other previously off-limits manifestations of spiritual devotion can now be allowed throughout the military. The policy also OKs other religious practices not related to appearance.
  • The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in December sent a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel about department policies it said “may result in the unnecessary exclusion of Sikh Americans and Americans of other religious faiths from military service based on their religious beliefs manifested in their dress and grooming.”
  • Reaction to the policy Wednesday was diverse and intense.Rabbi Sanford Dresin, director of military programs at the Aleph Institute, a Jewish non-profit organization that advocates for military members and prisoners, said he was surprised and cheered by the new policy. The institute recently waged a successful legal battle to win a Jewish chaplain’s right to wear a full beard.
  • But Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation — which battles what he describes as fundamentalist Christian domination of the military — said the relatively small numbers of non-Christian practitioners who benefit from the new rules would be dwarfed by the number of Christians who use it as cover to try to impose their belief system.DOD will find it harder to fight the spread of homophobia, anti-Islam sentiment, misogyny and anti-Semitism with the new policy, he predicted.

    “Far from this being all about beards and turbans for Sikhs or yarmulke for Jewish personnel, I am concerned over a potential for a new tsunami of fundamentalist Christian oppression and tyranny from superiors to their subordinates,” Weinstein said.

  • Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplains Alliance for Religious Liberty, an evangelical group that often takes issue with Weinstein, welcomed the ruling.He said the organization’s members are concerned that with recent changes in DOD policies governing open service of gays in the military and allowing benefits for same-sex spouses, they would be limited in expressing their faith’s teachings on homosexuality. The new ruling provides some assurance, he said.

    “Our initial response is that we are grateful that DOD is taking seriously Section 533 that was passed in the FY13 NDAA,” he said. “And we’re wanting to make sure that military members are able to exercise their religious liberties without any fear of recrimination.”

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1 Comment

  1. Manuel Coul

    Interesting to know about beard grooming! ButI think Beards are the contemporary part of the history and deals with a great royalty. Its been said that having a beard or a mustache is a sign of a real men which rules the kingdom. Beards are in trend and for grooming the same, variety of products have been introduced. This link brings the effective products which I like the most.

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