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Congress Expected to Approve Measure Requiring Armed Services to Permit Personnel to Wear Religious

May 29, 1984
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A Jewish legal aid society official predicted today that Congress would approve an amendment to the defense authorization bill which would require all of the military services to permit personnel to wear “unobtrusive religious headgear” while on duty.

The measure, introduced in the House by Rep. Stephen Solarz (D. N.Y.), was designed to nullify a decision by the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington on May 8 that an Orthodox Jew could not wear a skullcap while on duty.

Dennis Rapps, executive director of the National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs (COLPA), said that while the amendment triggered some opposition in the House before the House approved it last Thursday, the fact that the Solarz amendment is not a significant part of the authorization bill, previously approved by the Senate, indicated that the amendment would be approved as part of the authorization measure when the different versions are taken up by a Senate-House conference. Conference committee approval is routinely endorsed afterwards by the two chambers.


The amendment was drafted with the assistance of Nathan Lewin and David Butler, Washington attorneys and COLPA members. They represented a Jewish chaplain, Capt. Simcha Goldman, in his legal battle to be permitted to wear his skullcap while on duty.

Lewin and Butler indicated that if the amendment becomes law, as they believe it will, they will review the question as to whether they will proceed with legal appeals of the circuit court decision against Goldman. They had declared, after the circuit court ruling, that they would ask that court for a rehearsing and that if a rehearsing was refused, COLPA would probably seek a review of the case by the Supreme Court.

The amendment contains a provision which requires a review of the impact of the measure, if it becomes law, within one year, Rapps said.

He said the amendment plan had been backed by Agudath Israel, the National Council of Young Israel and the Orthodox Union. He also lauded the “extraordinary effort” by Solarz in preparation and approval by the House of the amendment.

Goldman served as a climical psychologist at the Mental Health Clinic of the Air Force Regional Hospital at March Air Force Base in Riverdale, Cal. The 3-0 circuit court ruling reversed a lower federal court decision in Washington by Judge Aubrey Robinson who had held in April, 1982, that the Air Force had failed to show why it could not accomodate Goldman’s request to wear a skullcap and enjoined the Air Force from interfering with that practice.

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