Beards big winner in year-old Hobby Lobby case: Column

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Ryan Colby 202-349-7219 media@becketlaw.org

July 1, 2015, USA Today

One year ago, the Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision in the Hobby Lobby case. After the opinion, the public argued over who would be the big winners as a result of the case — corporations? Evangelical Christians? Men? Religious women? Looking back over the past year at the legal decisions relying on Hobby Lobby, we have a clear winner: beards.

Yes, beards. Two of the biggest cases to rely on Hobby Lobby didn’t involve corporations, or contraception or any of the other usual suspects. They involved the right to grow beards.

Seven months after the Hobby Lobby decision, the Supreme Court followed up with another major decision that allowed a religious prison inmate to grow a half-inch beard. The state of Arkansas required all prisoners, including observant Muslims, to be clean-shaven. The state claimed it was a security regulation, but couldn’t come up with any evidence that a half-inch beard was more dangerous than a full head of hair, which the state allowed. All nine justices, even those who disagreed vehemently with Hobby Lobby, applied that precedent to allow the inmate to grow a beard.