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April 18, 1986 - Image 104

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-04-18

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106 Friday, April 18, 1986

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

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BACKGROUND

Kippot tAnd
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c

The ironic aspect about the re- the interest of the military's
cent Suprenie Court ruling on perceived need for uniformity."
yarmulkes and the military is Moreover, "[t]he military need
that the majority of justices not encourage debate or tolerate
agreed with Simcha Goldman, protest to the extent that such
the Orthodox Jew who argued tolerance is required of the
that he had a constitutional civilian state by the First
right to wear his yarmulke while Amendment," he wrote. "[T]o
on Air Force duty. But the deci- accomplish , its mission the
military must foster instinctive
sion was 5-4 against him.
Following is why it happened obedience, unity, commitment,
and the problems with the and esprit de corps." The Air
Force's rules concerning
prevailing logic.
The decision, . Goldman v. military dress, excluding a yar-
Weinberger, made the front mulke, do that, the Court held,
page of the New York Times, and thus met the necessary con-
and editorials and columns (in- stitutional standards.
Justice Stevens, ever the
cluding one by George F. Will)
followed, each dealing with the iconoclast, wrote a concurring
question of whether an Air opinion which began by con-
Force psychologist had a con- ceding that "Captain Goldman
stitutional right to wear his yar-
mulke, against Air Force regula-
tions, while on duty.
Goldman, a psychologist and An Orthodox Jew
Orthodox rabbi, had been allow- lost his Supreme
. ed for five years to wear his yar-
mulke while on duty as an Air Court case, even
Force officer, until he testified though the majority
for the defense in a court mar-
tial. The prosecutor then lodged of justices agreed
a complaint with Captain with his right to
Goldman's commanding officer,
claiming that wearing a yar- wear a yarmulke in
mulke inside was a violation of the military. •
Air Force regulations. Goldman,
who was ordered not to continue
this practice and threatened
with a court martial, eventual- presents an especially attractive
ly left the Air Force because of • case for an exception from the
his insistence on freely practic- uniform regulations that are ap-
ing his religion.
plicable to all other Air Force
Before he returned to the personnel." However, he saw
civilian world, however, he filed the case as extending beyond
a `lawsuit claiming that the Captain Goldman's yarmulke,
regulations, as applied to him, and encompassing the turban of
violated his constitutional rights. the Sikh, the saffron robe of a
The case wended its way through Satchidananda Ashram-
the federal court system (with a Integral Yogi, and the
victory at the trial level and a dreadlocks of a Rastafarian. In
reversal at the Court of Ap- those cases, Justice Stevens
peals), until it reached the posited that "a reasonable stan-
Suprema Court this year.
dard based on 'functional utili-
Just as the various opinions in ty, health and safety considera-
the press regarding the case tions, and the goal of a polish-
were fairly evenly split, so were ed, professional • appearance,"
the justices on the Supreme might result in such garb being
Court, who voted 5-4 against the' banned. Thus, even though a
yarmulke.
yarmulke would not be banned
Although there are only nine under those same standards, the
members of the Supreme Court; result would be a lack of
there were five separate opi- "uniform. treatment for the
nions, each one expressing a members of all religious faiths,"
clearly delineated point of view. which, in Justice Stevens view,
The Court's opinion, written is constitutionally invalid. "The
by Justice Rehnquist, rejected Air Force has no business draw-
Captain Goldman's claim to free ing distinctions between [a Sikh
exercise of religion without even • or a Rastafarian on the one hand
weighing it against the Air and an Orthodox Jew on the
Force's supposed interest in other] when it is enforcing com-
uniformity of dress. Rather, he mands of universal applica-
simply • held that "[t]he Air tions." .
Force has drawn the line es-
So much for the majority. As
sentially between religious ap-
,
one
would expect, the major dis-
parel which is visible and that
which is not, and we hold that ' sent was a stirring opinion by
those portions of the regulations Justice Brennan, in which
challenged here reasonably and Justice Marshall joined. Justice
evenhandedly regulate dress in Brennan began by recognizing
that the majority opinion
"overlooks the sincere and
Mr. Kaplan, a frequent con- serious nature of [Captain
tributor to these pages, is an at-
Goldman's] constitutional
torney practicing in New York.
claim." He then stated his basic

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