Judge Halts Order for Hasidic Nuclear Electrician Aboard US Aircraft Carrier to Shave Beard
A US federal judge granted a stay on Thursday that temporarily prevents the US Navy from requiring a Hasidic sailor to shave his beard.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Edmund Di Liscia — a Hasidic Jew and an Electrician’s Mate (Nuclear) currently aboard the Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier — filed a suit on Thursday in a US District Court against the Defense Department to stop the order to shave, Military.com first reported.
On Wednesday, Di Liscia wrote in his complaint, he was told by his superior that he would be expected to begin shaving as of Friday and regularly thereafter. The complaint by the sailor — who operates equipment associated with the ship’s nuclear power reactor — cited the Torah’s directive to “not shave off the edges of your beard,” found in Leviticus.
Upon arriving at boot camp, Di Liscia spoke with a chaplain to obtain an accommodation for keeping his beard, but was told he would be kicked out of the Navy if he pursued the matter. “Out of fear, he shaved,” it said.
But five months later, he sought and received a “no-shave chit,” or a religious accommodation allowing him to keep the beard, and he has not shaved since December 2018.
Despite this, the Thursday complaint alleged, Di Liscia was ordered to begin shaving, or else be subject to “disciplinary action” which would “permanently damage his career in the Navy and may subject him to severe personal penalties.”
The judge’s decision said that the Navy’s lawyers were maintaining that Di Liscia would not in fact be required to shave — “at least for the time being” — but that given the time difference between Washington, D.C. and the Roosevelt ship, which is now stationed in the Indian Ocean, more time was required to make sure the new instructions had been received.
“My desire is to continue serving my country,” Di Liscia wrote in a legal declaration. “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.”
Three other plaintiffs joined in the complaint filed Thursday, all devout Muslim sailors in the US Navy seeking permanent religious accommodations to grow beards.
“Being prevented from wearing a substantial beard is a severe violation of their religious beliefs,” the complaint argued, noting that an allowance for religious beards is routinely made in the US Army and Air Force, as well as in militaries in the United Kingdom, Canada, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, and India.