On October 7, the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral argument in Holt v. Hobbs on whether the Arkansas Department of Corrections grooming policy violates the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons act of 2000 (RLUIPA) when it prohibits a prisoner from growing a one-half-inch beard in accordance with his religious beliefs.

Inmate Gregory Holt (aka Abdul Maalik Muhammad) argues that one of his Muslim beliefs is that he must grow a beard but that the state of Arkansas substantially burdened his religious practice by disallowing beards. The policy only permits trimmed mustaches and no other facial hair. The only exception for beards is quarter-inch beards for those with diagnosed dermatological problems.  Holt proposed his half-inch beard as a compromise.

The state argues that the policy prevents inmates from concealing contraband, drugs, or weapons and that inmates can change their appearance quickly by shaving. They also argued that permitting Holt to wear a beard could cause security problems.

In response, Holt argued that prisons in other more than 40 other state prison systems are allowed to wear beards.

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court's findings that the state had met its burden under RLUIPA by demonstrating that the grooming policy was the least restrictive means of furthering a "compelling penological interest."  The court also deferred to the "expert judgment" of the prison officials are "more familiar with their own institutions."

Holt petitioned for the Supreme Court to hear the case, and the Court issued an interim order that Holt must be allowed to grow a half-inch beard until the Court renders its decision.

For more information including amicus briefs and proceedings, visit http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/holt-v-hobbs/

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4 Comments

  1. Abraham Vargas says:

    I argue in favor of the inmate, i believe that forcing someone to shave their beard is unfair and an invasion of the free excersise clause. It states that no one shall interfere with your religon. Many religions encourage or require their men to have a beard like for example Islam and Sikhism. And not to mention that Jesus Christ is often perceived to have a beard. Now as to "changing their appearence", as a more advanced society, with advanced technology there are facial recognition devices that can identify an inmate with/without beards. Making a man shave his beard would violate him and interfere with his spiritual conection with his religion.

    • Art says:

      I believe that these rules should not be held and Abraham is saying the truth in appearnce. I contradict also because many freedoms are taken when taken to prison.

  2. Jordyn Figueroa says:

    I agree with Abraham in that forcing men to shave their beard is against the free excersise clause. However, it also goes against the first amendment which talks about freedom of religion. The man in this article is simply following his religious beliefs, yet this is being seen as rebellion? Is freedom of religion not the act of allowing a person to act upon his/her religion. A beard in Islamic Religion is a great symbol that represent the men of that religious group, stripping this man of his beard is also a form of stripping away his religion and manhood. The absence of a religious symbol and the act of taking it away is a very unrighteous act of the state. The state must allow the man to express his religion through his beard due to free excersise clause.

  3. Leonardo Mendoza says:

    I see no hope for the state side of Arkansas in this. Through Abdul's Freedom of Conscience and First Amendment rights, there should be no gray area as to whether or not his facial hair is to be allowed. Yes the aspect of safety is a valid concern, however it is not sufficient as the problem with contraband will always accompany other circumstances in state institutions.

 
 
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