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Beards: The Surprising Reason Behind Many Religious Lawsuits

January 11th, 2024

Religious adherents of various faiths continue to face discrimination due to their beards, as one Christian man recently found out.

For the entirety of human civilization, people have been voicing various opinions about beards. The people of Ancient Mesopotamia clearly had an affinity for beards – and various carvings highlight this with clarity. However, some Sumerians eventually started shaving – and the trend continued into Egypt and Ancient Rome. The Romans were the first to truly make shaving an acceptable social norm, and wearing a beard became synonymous with the barbarian hordes (who sacked the city on several occasions). As the inheritors of Graeco-Roman culture, America (for the most part) shares the same basic view of shaving: That it represents cleanliness, professionalism, and self-discipline. 

It is somewhat ironic that although some of the first regular shavers lived in Ancient Egypt, the Egyptian population now has a markedly different view of the practice due to their mostly Islamic leanings. However, it is not only Muslims that refuse to shave due to their religious beliefs. Sikhs also grow their beards in accordance with their beliefs, and there are even some Christians who believe that beards are faith-based. The right to grow a beard (often against company policies) has led to numerous religious lawsuits throughout the years. 

Triple Canopy Agrees to Pay Over $100,000 After Firing Christian for Not Shaving Beard

Founded in 2003, Triple Canopy Inc. is a private security company that eventually merged with its world-renowned rival Blackwater to form the Constellis Group in 2014. Constellis now has some of the most experienced soldiers in the world on its payroll, including former Delta Force operators, Green Berets, Rangers, SEALs, and others. Before its merger with Blackwater, Triple Canopy became involved in the Iraq war, Haiti earthquake response, and other major global theaters. 

On December 26, 2023, it was reported that the company faced an employment lawsuit. They were accused of religious discrimination and retaliation for firing a Christian employee for not shaving his beard. Although beards are not “mandated” for Christians in the same way as other faiths, many Christians nonetheless hold the belief that “all good Christians should have beards.” The employee of Triple Canopy apparently shared this opinion, and he refused to shave when ordered to by his employer. 

Triple Canopy argued that the Christian man failed to provide a valid reason for a religious exemption. They claimed that he did not provide any evidence to suggest that his Christian faith necessitated a beard – or a “supporting statement from a religious leader.” As a result, the employee filed an EEOC claim. This apparently caused Triple Canopy to subject the Christian man to “intolerable work conditions” that left him no option but to quit. In the end, the EEOC sided with the Christian former employee – and Triple Canopy (now Constellis) was ordered to pay him over $100,000. 

This is not the first time a beard has caused an EEOC lawsuit, although it is somewhat unique given the fact that Islamic and Sikh faiths are more closely associated with beards – not Christian beliefs.

The Goal of the Universal Life Church’s Blog

Each month, various issues test the nature of religious rights in this country for all religions. The Universal Life Church’s blog is focused on documenting the most noteworthy of these cases in an objective manner that can be easily understood by readers.The Universal Life Church accepts all people from all walks of life, and it remains a staunch supporter of diverse thought and religious expression.

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