Goldman v. Weinberger
475 U.S. 503
March 25, 1986
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. 506-510.
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. 510. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which MARSHALL, J., joined, post, p. 513. BLACKMUN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 524. O’CONNOR, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which MARSHALL, J., joined, post, p. 528.[p504]