I love beards. You can often find me sporting a beard of any variety — from the porn ‘stache (some call it a pedo ‘stache, but let’s not change the subject) to a full length mountain man beard that rivals the folks at Duck Dynasty. I once heard a Sikh man say, “The beard is a gift from god, so I will not cut mine.” While I’m not a believer in god, the man makes sense. That is, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with growing and maintaining a beard of any fashion. I mean, we can, so why not?! (This applies to some of you ladies out there as well).
I’m sure many of you are familiar with the case of the Muslim inmate’s lawsuit against Arkansas’ prison policy against beards. While I wholeheartedly agree that the prisoner should be offered a religious exemption from the rule based on the teachings of Islam, I also feel that such an exemption is precisely why the rule should be abandoned. Namely, it discriminates against non-Muslims, including — gasp — Christians!
Now don’t misread that; I’m not saying this is evidence of Christian persecution. I’m merely saying it’s an example of a policy that makes exceptions for Muslims but not Christians (or any non-Muslim, including atheists) strictly because their religious teachings don’t include instructions for beards.
Because most sects of Christianity don’t require men to grow beards, those believers — if caught up in the justice system — could be stripped of a “god-given” right to grow beards. Giving special accommodations to people of certain beliefs strips others of the right to those accommodations. I’ve even heard of prison rules that require all people asking for vegetarian meals to prove they are either Jain, Buddhist, or Hindu. Christian vegetarians — in some prison systems — are forced to abandon their moral-based diets. Atheists have it worse; there are precisely zero religious exemptions an atheist could expect in prison, or anywhere really.
If a rule exists — anywhere inside or outside prison — that is malleable enough to offer religious exemptions, we should dismantle that rule completely. If a Christian, or any non-Muslim, finds oneself in prison and wants to grow a beard, they should not have to choose between converting to Islam or Sikhism and growing those incredible whiskers. It’s obvious that such policies are not important enough that they can’t be broken now and then. So instead there should be no religious exemptions; there should be equitable rights across the board, regardless of religion. Besides, prison officials should not be in the business of interfering with prisoners’ religions or lack thereof.
Of course, this is merely my opinion, and it’s not immune from criticism.