Despite his claim that he grew his beard for religious reasons, an Army appeals court has ruled US Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan, accused in the 2009 Fort Hood massacre, may be forcibly shaved to meet US Army grooming standards.
The court also ruled that Col. Gregory Gross, the trial judge, properly found that the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act does not give Hasan the right to have a beard while in uniform at trial. The court specifically upheld Gross’ previous ruling that Hasan did not prove his beard was an expression of a sincerely held religious belief. The appeals court said that even if Hasan did grow a beard for a sincere religious reason, compelling government interests justified Gross’ order requiring Hasan to comply with Army grooming standards.
Two of the judges on the panel did say Col Gross undermined his impartiality when he ordered the shaving, rather than having Hasan’s chain of command ensure that he appeared in court in compliance with Army regulations.
It is a near certainty this ruling will be appealed, potentially up to the US Supreme Court. In the meantime, the trial will stand still, with the Fort Hood victims and their families continuing the painful waiting they have experienced since 2009.