A military court ruled that officials may forcibly shave Fort Hood shooting suspect Major Nidal Hasan's beard ahead of his court martial.
Hasan is a military psychiatrist who is accused of opening fire at a Texas Army post's processing center in 2009. Thirteen people died in the attack and another 32 were wounded.
Hasan claims to be a devout Muslin and says that he keeps his beard for religious purposes, reports CNN. Despite these religious claims, the military court said that the beard could be cut.
Generally, someone is free to practice their religion as they see fit. This includes the right to grow beards and wear religious outfits. Even criminals and those suspected of being murderers have the right to practice their religion.
However, in certain cases where there is a compelling government interest, the government can step in and essentially prevent someone from practicing certain aspects of their religion.
In the case of Major Hasan, the military appeals court found that Religious Freedom Restoration Act does not allow the defendant to wear a beard during his upcoming court martial, as Hasan did not prove his beard was an expression of a sincerely held religious belief, reports CNN.
The court added that even had Hasan shown that the beard was an expression of a sincerely held religious belief, the government had a "compelling" interest" to order the beard shaved.
Generally, Army regulations prevent soldiers from wearing facial hair while in uniform. The court found that in the absence of a proved sincerely held religious belief, Hasan's wearing of the beard "denigrates the dignity, order, and decorum of the court-martial and is disruptive under the current posture of the case," reports CNN.
As for the government's compelling interest, prosecutors argued that Hasan's facial hair would make it harder for witnesses to identify him in court.
Hasan faces the death sentence if convicted of the shootings.
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