Petty Officer 3rd Class Edmund Di Liscia, a Jewish soldier aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, has been granted the right to keep his beard.
Di Liscia, who grew a beard and mustache for his religious beliefs, filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. when a superior ordered him to shave, the military news site Stars and Stripes reported.
The Navy requires all male soldiers be clean shaven, out of concern facial hair would interfere with the ability to secure a gas mask, but Di Liscia has been granted a waiver in 2018.
“This action is extremely humiliating and deeply jarring to my psyche and soul,” Di Liscia wrote to the court, expressing frustration the Navy was not accommodating his religious beliefs.
“My desire is to continue serving my country,” Di Liscia continued. “I don’t want to be in a position where I have to choose unnecessarily between serving my country and remaining true to my religious convictions. I also want to make it possible for other Orthodox Jews to enlist in our military and serve their country without having to abandon their religious commitments.”
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty represented Di Liscia and three Muslim soldiers who requested exemptions for religious reasons, Algemeiner reported.
Attorney Eric Baxter told the court, Di Liscia “has successfully passed routine gas-mask-seal-integrity tests while wearing his beard.” Baxter noted refusing Di Liscia the right to keep his beard violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the U.S. Constitution.
U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly granted a temporary restraining order and made it clear he expects the Navy to grant Di Liscia his waiver.