An Atlantic City firefighter has filed a federal suit against the New Jersey city and its fire department, after he learned he would be suspended unless he shaved his beard, which he grew for religious reasons.
Alexander Smith is a fifteen year veteran of the ACFD and specializes as an air mask technician, which draws in around $115,000 a year.
However, since he began growing his beard out as part of his “Born-Again Christian” faith, he can no longer meet the department grooming standards.
As an air mask technician, Smith has never had to enter a burning building or use the Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA), as he is there “solely for the purpose of refilling SCBA air bottles” and therefore has no need to have a tight seal on his mask.
According to NJ.com, the city demands he must be clean-shaven, and therefore Smith cannot perform his paid duties unless he loses the beard.
Smith is suing the city, Chief Scott Evans and Deputy Chief Thomas Culleny Jr. for violating his religious freedoms under the First Amendment and state civil rights laws. In addition, his lawyer has filed a temporary restraining order.
A judge has since placed the order on hold, allowing Smith to work with his beard- for now.