A Muslim man is suing the United States Navy with the help of a civil rights group after claiming to face discrimination because of his beard.
According to reports, Jonathan Berts first applied to be able to wear a beard nearly four years ago, but his request was denied due to Defense Department policies not providing religious exemptions for grooming guidelines. Shortly after he was denied, Berts says he started to experience severe discrimination.
A promotion that Berts was reportedly recommended for was taken away from him after he made the beard request, and according to the lawsuit, he was subjected to “barrage of derogatory terms, anti-Islamic slurs, and inappropriate lines of questions about his religious beliefs and loyalty to the United States.” The lawsuit also claims that Berts’ supervisor to whom the initial request was made called him names like “camel jockey” and “towel head.”
Up until that point, Berts had been teaching military history and physical education to naval recruits at a base in Illinois, but after requesting to keep his beard, he was reportedly quickly transferred to an “abandoned, roach-infested building” where his job was to guard old office equipment by himself all day.
Berts received an honorable discharge three years ago, and reports say that he has unsuccessfully attempted to reenlist numerous times since then, although he currently serves in the Naval Reserves. The lawsuit is asking for court orders that would return Berts to active duty and, as SF Gate reports, “restoring the losses he suffered to his pension and other benefits because of his discharge.”
Berts was reportedly allowed to wear the beard during the first four years of serving in the Navy due to a skin condition, but once he asked to wear it because of his Islamic faith, he was denied.