Of Blowouts and Beards…

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DOD photo / Cheryl Pellerin

Sailors pile sandbags against the walls of Naval Security Forces headquarters at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on Aug. 22, readying for Isaac's visit.

Probably makes sense that the military judge overseeing the court proceedings against five alleged terrorists – including purported 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed – put them on hold Thursday as tropical storm – and potential hurricane — Isaac bears down on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

But delaying the trial of alleged Fort Hood shooter and Army Major Nidal Hasan because he says he wants to maintain his beard for religious reasons seems a bit much. The Army bars such facial hair. Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, is charged with killing 13 people at the Texas base in November 2009, nearly three years ago.

If the Army gets its way – and Hasan doesn’t relent – an Army team may forcibly shave his beard before he appears in court. Six members of the Army have been permitted to grow beards since 9/11 — two Muslim doctors, three Sikhs and an Orthodox Jewish rabbi. If the Army gets the green light to shave Nasan’s beard, he will be the seventh soldier so shaved since 2005.

Don’t quite get it: the First Amendment rights of free speech are routinely abridged for even the most law-abiding U.S. soldiers. Why are the First Amendment rights to freedom of religion apparently accorded a higher level of protection?