PRESS RELEASE: “The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today applauded a unanimous ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that a Muslim inmate in Arkansas be permitted to grow a beard in accordance with his religious beliefs.
That decision overturned a state prison policy banning beards. The justices rejected the claim that the policy was needed for security reasons.
Justice Samuel Alito noted that prison officials already search clothing and hair and had not offered a reason they could not search beards as well. Alito wrote: “[I]nterest in eliminating contraband cannot sustain its refusal to allow petitioner to grow a half-inch beard.” “Hair on the head is a more plausible place to hide contraband than a half-inch beard, and the same is true of an inmate’s clothing and shoes,” Alito wrote. “Nevertheless, the department does not require inmates to go about bald, barefoot or naked.”