Nazarene firefighter wins religious accommodation after lawsuit

Monday, March 4, 2019
 | 
Chris Woodward (OneNewsNow.com)

gavel with Bible 2A firefighter in Utica, New York will be allowed to continue his work and adhere to his faith. 

"Employees have a right to live according to their religious beliefs, both on and off the job, and our client John Brooks is a third generation and a devout Nazarite," says attorney Roger Byron of First Liberty Institute, the organization that represented Brooks. "In accordance with his Nazarite beliefs, he made a sacred vow to God not to cut the hair of his scalp based on instruction in the Bible from the Book of Numbers."

The city's grooming standards require firefighters to have shorter hair. When his religious beliefs came into conflict with those standards, Brooks requested a religious accommodation.

"The city had made accommodations for firefighters of other faiths before," says Byron.

The city denied the request yet Byron says the city allows female firefighters with identical job descriptions, and who use identical equipment, to work their jobs with hair longer than Brooks.

"For secular reasons, not even for religious reasons," says Byron.

The attorney adds that, when Brooks was battling a structure fire, a hairnet he was ordered to wear prevented his mask from sealing to his face.

"So it put his life in danger," the attorney insists.

These reasons led Brooks to sue the city in federal court.

"First Liberty convinced the court to allow us to amend his complaint, something which put him in a much stronger legal position," says Byron. "The city then agreed to settle the case and grant John's religious accommodation."

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