Why you should care about a Muslim inmate's beard
Abdul Muhammad (formerly named Gregory Holt) will have his case heard by the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
October 6th, 2014
05:25 PM ET

Why you should care about a Muslim inmate's beard

Opinion by Emily Hardman, special to CNN

(CNN) - I’m not a Muslim. I’ve never been imprisoned. And I don’t want to grow a beard. But I’m defending the rights of someone who is and does.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear Holt v. Hobbs, a landmark case cutting to the heart of the First Amendment’s protection of religious freedom.

At issue is whether refusing to allow a prisoner to peacefully practice his religion violates a federal civil rights law, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, known as RLUIPA .

In this case, Abdul Muhammad (formerly named Gregory Holt) is an Arkansas inmate who wants to observe the Muslim command to grow a beard, in his case a half-inch in length.

Arkansas already allows inmates to grow beards for medical reasons and Muhammad’s beard would be permissible in 43 state and federal prison systems across the country.

The remaining outliers, including Arkansas, attempt to justify their bans in the name of security. However, Arkansas has not identified a single confirmed security problems resulting from beards.


- CNN Belief Blog

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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.