Coast Guard Changes Rules to Allow Religious Head Coverings

A Hasidic Jew told he could not serve in the Coast Guard Auxiliary unless he took off his skullcap can now wear it because regulations have been changed to allow religious head coverings.

The new rules allow unobtrusive coverings as long as they bear no bright colors, writing, pictures or symbols, Chief Petty Officer Daniel Tremper said Tuesday. The guard's previous rules said religious clothing could not be visible.

Lawmakers called for the change after state Assemblyman Dov Hikind drew attention to the rule in March. The armed forces under the Defense Department have permitted religious garb since 1987 but the Coast Guard is part of the Department of Homeland Security.

The new policy has yet to be formally adopted, but Jack Rosenberg is now permitted to wear his skullcap, Tremper said. The 35-year-old certified pilot passed his training for the Coast Guard Auxiliary last year, but was told he could not serve without taking off the head covering.

"I never considered it a problem," Rosenberg said. "Only a bump in the road."

Auxiliary members are trained to help with non-law enforcement programs such as public education, vessel safety checks and safety patrols.