Beards, the Supreme Court, and religious expression for inmates

http://blogs.detroitnews.com/politics/2014/10/10/high-court-promote-religious-expression-inmates/

OCT 10, 2014, 10:00 AM

Beards, the Supreme Court, and religious expression for inmates

 

Justices of the United States Supreme Court three days ago strongly questioned oral arguments from Arkansas Department of Corrections defending their “no beard” policy for inmates, even when beards are worn for bona fide religious reasons.

The policy is being challenged by a Muslim convert named Gregory Holt, who holds that Arkansas is in violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), which is a federal law that says government cannot impose a substantial burden on the religious exercise of prisoners unless it demonstrates that it has a compelling interest.

Some Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and others view shaving the beard as tantamount to committing sin. RLUIPA gives legal protection that despite even when people are incarcerated for felonies, the state does not have the absolute right to strip them of their religious practices and expressions. Even prisoners of war are guaranteed freedom of religious practice under the Geneva Convention.

Arkansas claims that beards should not be allowed in correctional facilities because they can be used to hide contraband such as weapons. Chief Justice John Roberts stated that Arkansas provided no proof of such ever happening, and Justice Sam Alito went farther by sarcastically suggesting to Arkansas that a “tiny revolver” could fall out of an inmate’s beard. Keep in mind that Roberts and Alito are both conservative jurists on the high court.

Just as in the Hobby Lobby case, in which the court ruled that two non-profit organizations did not have to provide full range contraceptive coverage for religious reasons to employees per the Affordable Care Act, I’m sure that the justices will rule in favor of beards for inmates.

At the end of the day, government has no right in meddling in the affairs of people’s bona fide religious beliefs as long as those beliefs do not pose a reasonable threat to security and justice in our land.

Affirmative Action Is Going Down & So Is Black America Unless…

The US Supreme Court today ruled that White firemen were unreasonable denied promotions in New Haven, CT when tests were set aside for promotions because they adversely excluded Blacks due to their generally lower test scores. 

Today’s ruling was another strike against decades of affirmative action in America.  This, however, is not a surprise at all to me for a couple of reasons.

For one, it was to be expected as of November 5, 2008 when America elected its first Black president that affirmative action would become a questionable issue to many Americans, especially to those who had a propensity to lean towards affirmative action being “reverse discrimination” or “reverse racism”.  Now that there is a Black president (though he is not from the offspring of slaves), everything is equal now has become the mantra from the “Right.”  Even those on the “Left” who made silly proclamations on election night that “Dr. King’s dream has been realized” feed into this non-sense.

The reality is racism in America is real though less overt towards Blacks (Arabs are checking it more these days).  Racism is institutionalized in America though nothing like it was a century ago.  For instance, White abuse drugs at similar rates as Blacks in America, yet Blacks make up 50% of the 2 million people in person.  This is an obvious sentencing issue since Blacks only make up 12% of the population.  School expulsion rates are disproportionate, exploitation through usury occurs at much higher rates, and other forms of more subtle discrimination are still the order of the day in America.

On the other hand, much of what Black America suffers today is self induced in which affirmative action and even reparations can not fix.  Black out of wedlock births were significantly lower in 1959 than now.  It’s hard to fathom a group of people succeeding socially and economically when 70% of its children are born into single parent homes in which a large percentage of the mothers are under-educated.  Since Black male role models in too many homes are MIA, too many Black children look to rappers like Lil’ Wayne to athletes like football star Terrell Owens, who live flashy, dysfunctional lifestyles as role models.

Blacks are the biggest consumers with the least amount of capital in America.  Prior to desegregation (never has been true integration), Blacks had vibrant business districts and owned significantly more farms.  No one is stopping Blacks from cultivating Black business cooperation like Arabs, Jews and Koreans have in America.  The psychological chains of slavery that grip Black America and are stronger than chains made of iron are the greater issue.

I’ll share some thoughts tomorrow, G-d willing, on the role of Muslims in the Black community on how we need to step up to the plate with others in offering a solution and going back to the old school so to speak in solving these issues.