- The Washington Times - Friday, January 9, 2015

A Muslim sailor denied the right to wear his long beard has teamed with the Council on American-Islamic Relations to sue Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and top military brass in hopes of returning to active duty — long facial hair and all.

Jonathan Berts, a former basic training instructor with nine years of service in the U.S. Navy, unsuccessfully applied for a waiver to keep his long beard four years ago. After he appealed, he was assigned to guard “an empty, cockroach-infested barracks” — which he said was retaliation for his push on the beard issue, the Navy Times reported.

“There was a lot of questioning of my loyalty, I got some names called,” he told the Times. “It was pretty bad. I don’t know what their interpretation was, but I was told directly that I was making ‘noise.’”

Mr. Berts’ enlistment came to an end in 2012, and despite his three Good Conduct Medals and two Navy Achievement Medals, was denied the right to reenlist for active duty. He was honorably discharged and entered the Navy Reserve in Glenview, Illinois, before moving back to California and his new Individual Ready Reserve assignment at Navy Cargo Handling Battalion 14, the Times reported.

But he wants to go back to active duty, and has filed a case in federal court in Sacramento.

He hopes the Navy will not only allow him to return to active service, but also grant his previously requested waiver for the beard, which he still has, the Times reported. He’s teamed with Brice Hamack, an attorney with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, to sue Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, Mr. Hagel and former TSC Great Lakes commander Capt. Peter Lintner.

“I believe that I was wronged and I would love to get my career back,” Mr. Berts told the Times.

Mr. Berts thinks his case is stronger now than in 2011 because the Pentagon relaxed religious dress and grooming standards in January 2014.

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