On October 7, 2014, oral argument took place before the United States Supreme Court in Holt v. Hobbs. A devout Muslim prisoner objected to a prison policy that prevented him from growing a ½-inch beard in accordance with his religious beliefs. The prison claimed that their grooming policy was necessary to maintain security. It prevented prisoners from altering their appearance to avoid detection and precluded inmates from hiding contraband in facial hair.
The Supreme Court unanimously held in a 9-0 opinion that the policy violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. Justice Alito explained, “the [prison’s] policy substantially burdens [the inmate’s] religious exercise. Although we do not question the importance of the [prison’s] interests in stopping the flow of contraband and facilitating prisoner identification, we do doubt whether the prohibition against [the inmate’s] beard furthers its compelling interest about contraband. And we conclude that the [the prison] has failed to show that its policy is the least restrictive means of furthering its compelling interests.” You can listen to the oral argument at https://goo.gl/3O3eY4, or read the decision at https://goo.gl/ZWQFWW.