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Orthodox Jewish man wins suit vs. NYPD over department’s beard rule

A federal judge has sided with an NYPD cadet kicked out of the Police Academy for running afoul of the department’s ban on bushy beards in his effort to keep religiously observant.

The New York Daily News reports that Judge Harold Baer ruled the NYPD violated Fishel Litzman’s constitutional rights in ordering the Orthodox Jew to conform to its policy that officers’ beards do not exceed 1 millimeter in length.

“I want people to know that you can follow your dreams and never have to compromise your religion,” Litzman, 39, told The News outside his suburban home, north of the city. “That’s what makes this county so great.”

“I want people to know that you can follow your dreams and never have to compromise your religion.”

- Fishel Litzman

The hubbub began in January when Litzman was first cited by the department for failing to trim his beard.

Then -- and over the summer-- Litzman, a former paramedic, was canned a month shy of officially obtaining his badge. The father of five is Hasidic and has said he believes cutting his beard is forbidden by God.

The NYPD argued during the ensuing legal proceedings the overgrown facial hair would prevent Litzman from properly donning a gas mask during an emergency.

“We respectfully disagree with the court and are considering our options,” a city Law Department spokeswoman reportedly told The News following Baer’s ruling.

As for Litzman, he reportedly said he plans to have his attorney request his reinstatement with the department. 

“The primary objective was always to get back into the academy and do what I always dreamed of doing,” he told The News.

The NYPD hired its first Hasidic officer in 2006 and the force now has at least two dozen Orthodox Jewish officers. Like observant Muslim and Sikh officers, Hasidic officers are allowed to keep their beards for religious reasons, but must keep them neat and trimmed.

Click for the story from the New York Daily News.


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