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Judaism Brooklyn Rabbi Takes On The Army, Sues Uncle Sam Over Beard Restriction

Vikram singh

Feb 24, 2005
A Crown Heights rabbi is suing the U.S. Army for denying him a job as a chaplain because he won't cut his beard.

Rabbi Menachem Stern, 29, believes the military's ban on beards shouldn't apply to him because the laws of his Jewish faith prohibit him from shaving.

The Army disagrees and denied Stern a job last year because of his whiskers.

The Orthodox rabbi appealed the decision unsuccessfully twice before suing the Army last week for the job and unspecified damages.

"It's my mission to serve American soldiers," said Stern, who lives with his wife and three young daughters in a Crown St. apartment. "I won't give up this fight."

Stern is represented by Washington-based lawyer Nathan Lewin, who won a similar case in 1976 when he sued to prevent the Air Force from enforcing a ban on beards against a Jewish chaplain.

"I don't know why the military is doing this again," said Lewin. "They lost last time."

The Army's rules on grooming prohibit beards. Regulation 670-1 states that "males will keep their face clean-shaven" and "beards are not authorized."

But Lewin said that the Army has made three exceptions to the rule since October 2009 by allowing three soldiers of the Indian Sikh faith to wear beards and turbans.

The Army has 60 days to respond to Stern's suit.

Stern is a member of the Chabad Lubavitch sect and has been studying religious tracts six days a week since he was 5 years old. He vows to keep his facial hair regardless of the outcome of his suit.

"My beard is my connection to God," said Stern, who supports his family with a day job as an operations manager in Manhattan. "I won't cut it under any circumstances."

A spokesman at the Pentagon would not comment on Stern's suit but said that the Army does sometimes grant exceptions to grooming regulations for religious reasons.

"Soldiers in the Army are allowed to apply for exceptions based on religious practices," said Lt. Col. Christopher Garver.

"Each request is considered on its own merit and weighs the desire for soldiers to express themselves religiously in relation to the requirements of the Army," Garver said.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local...chaplain_hopeful_sues_army.html#ixzz18ONwkt00



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