States map 2015 for blog Written by Don Byrd

Last week, the New York Police Department announced new rules to accommodate officers whose faith conflicts with policies prohibiting beards or head coverings. The previous policy was a barrier to many Sikh adherents, who traditionally wear their hair in a turban.

The NYTimes has more:

Under the revised policy, Commissioner James P. O’Neill said on Wednesday, officers who are granted a religious accommodation from the department’s Equal Employment Opportunity Office will be allowed to have beards that extend up to one-half inch from the face. The officers may also wear turbans — with a hat shield it affixed to it — in place of the traditional police cap.

“We’re making this change to make sure that we allow everybody in New York City that wants to apply and have the opportunity to work in the greatest police department in the nation, to make sure we give them that opportunity,” the commissioner said.

Religious accommodation in the workplace is an important component of our religious freedom. While traditional grooming and attire rules may have their place in a law enforcement setting, so too is the basic principle that no American should have to choose unnecessarily between their faith and their livelihood, or between the requirements of their religion and the opportunity to serve their community in public service.

If a short beard and a turban do not conflict with carrying out the duties of a police officer, then a rule accommodating those religious needs is appropriate. Kudos to the NYPD for making this change, and to the Sikh and Muslim advocates who have been determined in this effort.