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Goldman v. Weinberger

475 U.S. 503 (1986)


Facts of the Case:

Goldman was an officer in the U.S. Air Force and served as a clinical psychologist at a base's mental health clinic. He was an Orthodox Jew and ordained rabbi. Military regulations prohibited him from wearing his yarmulke indoors because headgear could not be worn inside "except by armed security police in the performance of their duties." While outdoors, Goldman wore his yarmulke underneath his service cap, but was warned that he would face disciplinary action if he was caught wearing his yarmulke inside.



Decision:

The Supreme Court upheld the military provision by a 5-4 vote.


Majority Opinion: (Justice Rehnquist)

The Court asserts that deference should be given to the professional judgment of military authorities. These officials are not constitutionally required to abandon their professional judgment. The military is a "specialized society separate from civilian society" and "to accomplish its mission the military must foster instinctive obedience, unity, commitment, and esprit de corps." Rather than give priority to their own beliefs, individuals in the military are to subordinate their own desires to the needs of the service. One of the ways the military creates this cohesiveness is by requiring servicemen to maintain uniform visibility. The First Amendment does not require the military to accommodate all religious views, nor does it preclude the uniform regulation.


Significance:

The objectives of the military allow it to restrict the religious rights of individuals in the interest of cohesiveness. The Court did not endeavor to assess the military's claims concerning the importance of regulating the appearance of its members. The military is left to make the final decision of whether such regulations are necessary.


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