SSgt Abdul Rahman Gaitan has become the first US Air Force Airman to obtain a religious exemption to grow a beard in uniform:
The biggest challenge yet, was getting approval for his shaving waiver from Air Force Headquarters. This required endorsement by the unit commander, base chaplain, installation commander up to the Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff, Personnel Division. This process took Gaitan almost four years to accomplish.
Interestingly, the article explains Gaitan was actually Catholic, but he apparently became disenchanted with the lack of authenticity in the liturgical faith — and he was drawn to the seeming sincerity of Islam he saw in locals while stationed in Turkey.
With the beard openly displaying his religion, Gaitan says Read more
Update: Now widely covered at various sites, though they don’t name US Army Soldier Austin Harasti.
The Army Times reports that a Soldier at the 14th Military Police Brigade at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, has been granted a religious accommodation to wear a beard — because he is a “Norse pagan.” From Col Curtis Shroeder’s memo to the 795th Military Police Battalion Soldier [emphasis added]:
“In observance of your Heathen; Norse Pagan faith, you may wear a beard, in accordance with Army uniform and grooming standards for soldiers with approved religious accommodations.”
Interestingly, there is no tenet of “Norse pagan faith” that requires a beard, as a heathen-advocacy site pointed out. As quoted in the article:
According to the Open Halls Project, an advocacy group for heathens serving in the military, the beard is a beloved tradition, but not a requirement.
“There is no religious requirement for beards in Heathenry,” according to a 2017 post about beards. “…We, as Heathens, have no such religious requirement with regards to hair.”
In essence, this is the same as a Christian seeking a waiver for a beard because Jesus had one. That said, Army policy is to, by default, grant the accommodation so long as Read more
Military troops of faith — Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and others — have long served in the US military. They have done so with honor and distinction, earning the highest accolades and making the highest sacrifices.
And former Army officer Sue Fulton thinks they shouldn’t be allowed to serve in the military at all.
As discussed by Sonny Hernandez, in an interview with the New York Times Fulton was aghast that military chaplains have the gall to claim their God is greater than their government — and they should therefore not be in the military:
Some chaplains argue: ‘My first responsibility is to God.’ Well, if your responsibility is to God and not the Army, you need to get out of the Army.
Hernandez accurately summarized Fulton’s intolerant and ultimately unconstitutional advocacy:
[When] Fulton argues that chaplains should get out of the military if God is first in their lives, she is establishing a religion over theirs…She is [saying] the Constitution only works one way, and that the Defense Department’s policy on pluralism is extended only to those with convictions are agreeable to hers.
Fulton’s declaration is utterly ridiculous — and bigoted. Millions of troops before Read more
The US Army has changed its policies (PDF) to allow Sikhs, Muslims, and Jews to serve while wearing their religious accoutrements in uniform [emphasis added]:
Since 2009, religious accommodation requests requiring a waiver for uniform wear and grooming have largely fallen into one of three faith practices: the wear of a hijab; the wear of a beard; and the wear of a turban or under-turban/patka, with uncut beard and uncut hair. Based on the successful examples of Soldiers currently serving with these accommodations, I have determined that brigade-level commanders may approve requests for these accommodations…
Importantly, the policy specifically says the religious practice should be approved Read more
Rabbi Hanoch Teller has continued his now long-running series on Jews in the US military whose religious exercise, and their interaction with the military leadership, ultimately set the stage for military religious freedom today.
In Part VIII, Teller expounds on some of the backstory to Rabbi Goldman’s attempt to wear a yarmulke in uniform, highlighting the military’s need to have a “compelling interest” and Read more
As promised, Rabbi Hanoch Teller has continued his previously discussed series on Jews in the US military with the continuing story of Simcha Goldman, who became famous as the Airman who sued, won, and then lost in Goldman v Weinberger — and ultimately Read more
Over at the Jewish Press, Rabbi Hanoch Teller has a fascinating series tracing in storytelling form several major stories in the history of Judaism in the US military. The first two articles describe the story of Mitchell Geller, who after many years of military service starting in the 1950s was ultimately forced out over a beard he refused to shave — resulting in him losing his retirement. The interesting end to the story can be read in Part II.
The third and fourth articles in the series begin the story of S. Simcha Goldman, the Navy chaplain turned Read more
The New York Times recently bemoaned that it was “unfair” to US troops who have publicly announced their gender identity issues for the US military to fail to follow through with its unstated promise of letting them serve in whatever gender expression they chose.
To be clear, US military policy states those who “identify” as a gender other than their actual one have issues that disqualify them from serving. In July of last year, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter stood up a “working group” to study the impact of allowing troops with gender issues to serve [emphasis added]:
“At my direction,” Carter said, “the working group will start with the presumption that transgender persons can serve openly without adverse impact on military effectiveness and readiness, unless and except where objective, practical impediments are identified.”
The working group was to study the issue over the succeeding six months.
Eight months later, the New York Times chided Carter for Read more