Maj. Nidal Hasan (Jail photo)
FORT HOOD (October 18, 2012)—The U.S. Army Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that accused Fort Hood gunman Maj. Nidal Hasan has no right to wear a beard in uniform during his court-martial for the deadly November 2009 shooting rampage on post.
The court ruled that trial judge Col. Gregory Gross was correct in finding that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act does not give Hasan the right to wear a beard while in uniform during the court-martial.
The court upheld the judge’s finding that Hasan failed to prove the beard is an expression of a sincerely held religious belief and said even if the beard were such an expression, “compelling government interests” also justified Gross’ order that Hasan meet Army grooming standards.
Gross ordered Hasan to shave before the court-martial or said he would have him shaved forcibly.
The court also upheld previous contempt findings against Hasan in which he was fined $1,000 six times for appearing in court out of uniform because of his beard.
Two judges on the appeals court, in a partial dissent, said Gross’ order requiring Hasan to appear in court clean-shaven compromised his impartiality.
Hasan’s attorneys indicated they plan to appeal the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.
The defense had filed appeals seeking a ruling on whether the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act allowed Hasan to keep the beard.
The first sought to overturn contempt findings against Hasan in previous hearings and to bar any future contempt proceedings over the beard.
The second sought a ruling on whether the act allows Hasan to have a beard while in military uniform during his court-martial.
Hasan faces a possible death penalty if convicted in the Nov. 5, 2009 rampage that left 13 dead.