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Gillibrand presses Army on beard policy

WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand urged the Army to modify a regulation banning facial hair in order to allow rabbis to serve as chaplains.

"It is my understanding that a review of this policy is currently under way at the Department of Defense," Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) wrote recently to Army Secretary John McHugh. "I write to strongly urge that while this review is ongoing, the Army grant waivers of this policy to prospective chaplains who are otherwise fully qualified to serve."

In December, Rabbi Menachem Stern sued the U.S. Army, saying it refused his services as a chaplain because he would not shave his beard. Gillibrand and other senators had taken up Stern’s case last August.

"Since writing to you last August about the case of Rabbi Menachem M. Stern, I have become aware of other instances where qualified chaplains have been told by their superiors that they cannot display facial hair while serving in the Army," Gillibrand said in her letter. "This discriminatory practice forces rabbis and other members of the clergy to choose between their deeply held religious beliefs and their desire to serve their country in the Armed Forces."

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