A Muslim sailor has filed suit against the Navy for alleged discrimination that occurred after he requested to be allowed to grow a beard for religious reasons.
The Council on American Islamic Relations is representing Jonathan Berts, who requested to wear a beard back in January 2011. At the time, the Pentagon did not allow religious exemptions for grooming.
After his request, Berts claims he was denied a promotion and faced “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 the lawsuit filed in Sacramento.
The suit claims Berts was rejected for a previously recommended promotion to first class petty officer, and that the officer who denied his promotion called him names like “camel jockey” and “towel head.”
Berts had previously been an instructor for new recruits, teaching military history and physical education. The suit claims that soon after his religious exemption request, he was transferred to a vermin-infested building and spent his days alone, guarding old office equipment. He agreed to accept an honorable discharge in December 2011.
Since then, the Pentagon has loosened its regulations regarding religious exemptions for grooming. The lawsuit asks the court to return Berts to active duty and restore losses to his pension and other benefits due to his discharge.
I’m not sure how veterans feel about this sort of thing, but it seems to my civilian mind that if you sign up to serve in any branch of the military, you agree to do what they tell you, when they tell you, the way they tell you.
The whole point of military training and regulations regarding uniforms and appearance is to create fighting units that are disciplined and focused on their mission.
If you feel the need to express yourself, you should consider art school before you think about signing up for the military.
Religious tolerance in the military should be extended as far as religious services and important rituals, but expecting to wear religious garb (or grooming) rather than the required uniform while on duty really doesn’t seem to have a place in military life. Next, someone will request to wear a burka.
As for the name calling, I’m sure that never happens. … When in history has a naval officer ever used coarse, insulting, demeaning language in front of his men?
If Berts wants back in the Navy so badly, let him shave like the rest of the sailors.