Credit Ian Millhiser of Think Progress with the excellent headline that appears above as well as the following story that appeared on the group’s website yesterday:
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court handed down a unanimous decision in Holt v. Hobbs, establishing that a Muslim inmate may grow a half-inch beard “in accordance with his religious beliefs,” despite a prison policy prohibiting him from doing so. This result is not particularly surprising. During oral argument the justices appeared sympathetic to the inmate, who listed as “Gregory Houston Holt AKA Abdul Maalik Muhammad.” And Mr. Muhammad had strong legal arguments supporting his case.
In the Court’s majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito convincingly rebuts the prison’s justifications for requiring Muhammad to shave. Among other things, the prison claimed that an inmate might hide contraband, such as a razor or illegal drugs, in their beard if they were permitted to grow one. According to Alito, however, the prison’s claim that an inmate might smuggle items in a half-inch beard, is “hard to take seriously.” The prison, for example, does not require inmates to shave their heads, so “it is hard to see why an inmate would seek to hide contraband in a 1/2-inch beard rather than in the longer hair on his head.”
Though Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg joins Alito’s opinion, she also penned a two sentence concurring opinion explaining why Tuesday’s decision is a proper application of an individual’s religious freedoms — and why she believes that the Court’s birth control decision in Hobby Lobby was erroneous. “Unlike the exemption this Court approved in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.,” Ginsburg explains, “accommodating petitioner’s religious belief in this case would not detrimentally affect others who do not share petitioner’s belief. On that understanding, I join the Court’s opinion.” Read more