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In Response to Kerry Letter, Coast Guard Changes Policy on Religious Headgear

Location: Washington, DC

In Response to Kerry Letter, Coast Guard Changes Policy on Religious Headgear

Changes in Line with Kerry's Proposed Workplace Religious Freedom Act

Senator John Kerry received notice from the United States Coast Guard that they changed their uniform policy in order to allow officers to wear religious headgear in plain sight while on the job. This announcement by the Coast Guard was made in response to a letter Kerry sent earlier this year expressing concern over the case of Jack Rosenberg, a Coast Guard officer who was barred from serving because, as a Hasidic Jew, he was required to wear a yarmulke while on duty.

Originally, the Coast Guard regulations mandated that "religious items" be "concealed or worn only during religious services," despite the fact that other branches of the armed forces allow members to wear visible religious items, as long as the items did not interfere with their duties.

"There's nothing more American than freedom to worship and volunteering to serve in our armed forces. No one should ever have to choose between honoring their religion and keeping their job, especially our servicemen and women," said Kerry.

Kerry's request and the Coast Guard's subsequent policy changes are in line with the Workplace Religious Freedom Act, legislation Kerry has introduced in every Congress since 1996 to put an end to religious discrimination in the workplace. The Workplace Religious Freedom Act requires employers to make a reasonable accommodation for an employee's religious practice or observance, such as observing religious holidays or wearing religious headgear. It is supported by a diverse coalition of more than 40 Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh organizations.

Enactment of the Workplace Religious Freedom Act will insure that all members of society, no matter their religious beliefs and practices, are protected from this type of discrimination.

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