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When the government makes a value judgment in favor of secular motivations, but not religious motivations, the government's actions must survive heightened scrutiny.
Male officers in appellant city's (city) police department (department) were subject to an internal order that required them to shave their beards. Appellees, police officers for the city, were both devout Sunni Muslims who were under a religious obligation to grow beards. Appellant department's beard policy made exemptions for medical reasons, but the department refused to make exemptions for religious beliefs. Appellees filed a suit for injunctive relief against the city, the department, the city's police director, and the city's chief of police (collectively, “appellants”) on the ground that the department's enforcement of the order would violate their rights under the Free Exercise Clause of U.S. Const. amend. I. The lower court permanently enjoined the department from disciplining appellees for refusing to shave their beards. Appellants sought review.
Was the policy of the city police department violative of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment?
The judgment of the lower court, which permanently enjoined appellants from disciplining appellees for refusing to shave their beards for religious reasons, was affirmed because appellants' policy against police officers wearing beards, which only made exemptions for secular medical reasons, was a violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.