(NBC NEWS) A unanimous Supreme Court ruling has invalidated an Arkansas state prison rule that barred inmates from growing beards measuring more than a quarter of an inch long.
The rule had been challenged by inmate Gregory Holt, a Muslim man who had asked for permission to grow a half-inch-long beard as a compromise from the full beard he believes is required by his faith. In a ruling announced Tuesday, the Supreme Court said the policy violated Holt's religious beliefs.
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Arkansas was virtually alone in having such a restrictive rule on beards. Holt — who is also known as Abdul Maalik Muhammad — had argued in a handwritten plea to the court that the state's refusal to grant exceptions was oppressive and forced inmates "to either obey their religious beliefs and face disciplinary action on the one hand, or violate those beliefs in order to acquiesce" to the grooming policy.