A firefighter and Pentecostal pastor who was denied an accommodation to grow a beard says his religious freedom was violated because the Bible requires facial hair for men.
“It affects me tremendously because it is my beliefs and convictions. I don’t feel that I should have to compromise what I believe, what I am convicted of spiritually because a policy is in place that is not willing to give an accommodation. That affects me tremendously,” Alexander Smith, 42, said in an interview with The Christian Post on Thursday.
In the lawsuit which was filed last week, according to NJ.com, the 15-year veteran firefighter who also leads the Community Harvesters Church in Atlantic City, is suing the city and his superiors, Chief Scott Evans and Deputy Chief Thomas Culleny Jr. for threatening to suspend him without pay unless he shaves the beard he insists he grew for religious reasons.
The request from his bosses violates his religious freedoms under the First Amendment and is also a violation of the New Jersey Civil Rights Act, he argues.
Smith who is pursuing a Masters of Divinity from Rockbridge Theological Seminary in Springfield, Missouri, and serves as a Police and Firemens Chaplain for Atlantic City, explained to CP that while he doesn’t require all the men in his Pentecostal church to wear a beard, Scripture supports his position.
“This is my stance, scripturally,” he said. “I believe that it is a requirement because it is a natural occurrence. It’s the way that God created us. In the Old Testament, it was forbidden to cut your beard. That was a forbidden practice. So most of the prophets, Aaron, Moses, Jesus Christ Himself, according to my research and study of the Bible, they wore beards following the Jewish law.”
When it was noted that he is not a Jew but a Gentile, he responded: “Right, but some of the things that are written in the Scripture, it applies to Gentiles also. It’s not my personal belief, it is Scriptural what I believe about facial hair. It’s based off what I’ve studied.”
According to Heath Henning of Truth Watchers, a website on Christian culture and theology: “To the Jewish concept as presented in the Old Testament, a shaved beard was a reason for embarrassment to the Jews (2 Sam. 10:4-5), and to the mid-eastern culture it was to represent defeat (Isa. 7:20). Shaving off ones beard was self-inflicted only for the purpose of cleansing from plagues according the Levitical laws (Lev. 14:9), or mourning (Ezra 9:3; Isa. 15:2).”
He argued that historically men in the early church also wore beards.
Apologetics website, Revelation.co, notes that, “God’s word reveals that beards are a blessing to men, which is sadly forgotten in today’s age. While not required, growing a beard can, in a sense, give honor and glory to a God who created man with that ability. Not out of requirement, not out of salvation, but out of appreciation for God giving man that distinction.”
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Leonardo Blair