AFTER discovering that the Old Testament insists that men shouldn’t cut their hair, Florida Army sergeant Jacob DiPietro, above, applied for a religious exemption that would allow him to wear a beard.
His application was made in 2019. What followed was a “painful process” trying to get the army to bend the rules, “as well as bullying from other soldiers,” but it’s reported this week that DiPietro finally won his battle and has become one of the first known Christian soldier to get a religious exemption of this sort.
His request was made because DiPietro observes the Nazarite rule from the Old Testament that states, “No razor may be used on their head” and which insists believers “must let their hair grow long.”
Army officials confirmed that he was given the exemption because that it was “based on a sincerely held religious belief.”
But the victory is proving bittersweet. DiPietro – a cargo specialist with the Florida Army Reserve’s 489th Transportation Company (Seaport Operations) – said that all the hoops he had to jump through to get permission left him determined to quit the service when his contract ends next year.
There are things that I see and I don’t like … like the way soldiers are treated when they seek an exception to policy while following Army regulation,” he told army publication Task & Purpose.
If a soldier is following the rules as set by the Army, they should absolutely be free from harassment discrimination.
I feel like there’s still a culture that is, truthfully, fearful and hating towards that which is different.
DiPietro was already in the Army when he became devout during “a really dark time” following a deployment to Kuwait in 2017, he said.
He told others seeking similar exemptions to “not give up” and “stand by your decision” – while insisting it is far too bruising a process to go through for anyone without genuine need.
“If you’re trying to fleece the system because you just don’t want to shave, or you just want to grow your hair out, I’m telling you now: It’s not gonna work,” he told Task & Purpose, which pointed out
the service has specific rules about hair length and styling, for men and women, including a strict no-beard policy. But the Army made policy changes in 2017 that made it easier for soldiers to receive religious exemptions to grow out their hair or beards by allowing the soldier’s brigade-level commander to approve the request.
“The soldier’s brigade-level commander will approve a request for a religious accommodation … unless the commander determines the request is not based on a sincerely held religious belief, or identifies a specific, concrete hazard that is not specifically addressed in this directive and that cannot be mitigated by reasonable measures,” Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning said at the time.
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