Goldman v. Weinberger
475 U.S. 503 (1986)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Goldman v. Weinberger, 475 U.S. 503 (1986)

Goldman v. Weinberger

No. 84-1097

Argued January 14, 1986

Decided March 25, 1986

475 U.S. 503




Petitioner, an Orthodox Jew and ordained rabbi, was ordered not to wear a yarmulke while on duty and in uniform as a commissioned officer in the Air Force at March Air Force Base, pursuant to an Air Force regulation that provides that authorized headgear may be worn out of doors but that indoors "[h]eadgear [may] not be worn . . . except by armed security police in the performance of their duties." Petitioner then brought an action in Federal District Court, claiming that the application of the regulation to prevent him from wearing his yarmulke infringed upon his First Amendment freedom to exercise his religious beliefs. The District Court permanently enjoined the Air Force from enforcing the regulation against petitioner. The Court of Appeals reversed.

Held: The First Amendment does not prohibit the challenged regulation from being applied to petitioner, even though its effect is to restrict the wearing of the headgear required by his religious beliefs. That Amendment does not require the military to accommodate such practices as wearing a yarmulke in the face of its view that they would detract from the uniformity sought by dress regulations. Here, the Air Force has drawn the line essentially between religious apparel that is visible and that which is not, and the challenged regulation reasonably and evenhandedly regulates dress in the interest of the military's perceived need for uniformity. Pp. 475 U. S. 506-510.

236 U.S.App.D.C. 248, 734 F.2d 1531, affirmed.

REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, POWELL, and STEVENS, JJ joined. STEVENS, J filed a concurring opinion, in which WHITE and POWELL, JJ., joined, post, p. 475 U. S. 510. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which MARSHALL, J., joined, post, p. 475 U. S. 513. BLACKMUN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 475 U. S. 524. O'CONNOR, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which MARSHALL, J., joined, post, p. 475 U. S. 528.

Page 475 U. S. 504

JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner S. Simcha Goldman contends that the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution permits him to wear a yarmulke while in uniform, notwithstanding an Air Force regulation mandating uniform dress for Air Force personnel. The District Court for the District of Columbia permanently enjoined the Air Force from enforcing its regulation against petitioner and from penalizing him for wearing his yarmulke. The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed on the ground that the Air Force's strong interest in discipline justified the strict enforcement of its uniform dress requirements. We granted certiorari because of the importance of the question, 472 U.S. 1016 (1985), and now affirm.

Petitioner Goldman is an Orthodox Jew and ordained rabbi. In 1973, he was accepted into the Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship Program and placed on inactive reserve status in the Air Force while he studied clinical psychology at Loyola University of Chicago. During his three years in the scholarship program, he received a monthly stipend and an allowance for tuition, books, and fees. After completing his Ph.D. in psychology, petitioner

Page 475 U. S. 505

entered active service in the United States Air Force as a commissioned officer, in accordance with a requirement that participants in the scholarship program serve one year of active duty for each year of subsidized education. Petitioner was stationed at March Air Force Base in Riverside, California, and served as a clinical psychologist at the mental health clinic on the base.

Until 1981, petitioner was not prevented from wearing his yarmulke on the base. He avoided controversy by remaining close to his duty station in the health clinic and by wearing his service cap over the yarmulke when out of doors. But in April, 1981, after he testified as a defense witness at a court-martial wearing his yarmulke but not his service cap, opposing counsel lodged a complaint with Colonel Joseph Gregory, the Hospital Commander, arguing that petitioner's practice of wearing his yarmulke was a violation of Air Force Regulation (AFR) 35-10. This regulation states in pertinent part that "[h]eadgear will not be worn . . . [w]hile indoors except by armed security police in the performance of their duties." AFR 35-10,

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