10 National Organizations Join First Liberty in Supporting Our Client Pastor Alex Smith

April 19, 2024
Alex Smith Support | First Liberty Institute

by Becky Dummermuth, Counsel • 4 min read

We received a tremendous outpouring of support in our case involving Alex Smith, a first responder, pastor, and chaplain in Atlantic City. First Liberty and the Harvard Religious Freedom Clinic are fighting for him in federal appeals court.

For over 20 years, Alex Smith has served and led in his community, working both for the Atlantic City Fire Department and as pastor of Community Harvesters Church. Alex’s religious beliefs and conscience require him to wear a beard to set a godly example for his congregation and follow the examples of the prophets and Jesus in Scripture. The fire department, however, refused to grant Alex a religious accommodation to its grooming policy even though wearing a beard would have no impact on Alex’s job as air mask technician.

The brief we recently filed with the Third Circuit Court of Appeals pointed to our U.S. Supreme Court victory in Groff v. DeJoy, which clarified the legal standard for religious accommodation at work, arguing that the fire department must accommodate Alex.

Recently, ten organizations from five different faiths, six law professors, five law firms, and four first responders filed friends-of-the-court briefs in support of Alex. The organizations were:

  • Jewish Coalition for Religious Liberty
  • American Hindu Coalition
  • Coalition for Jewish Values
  • The Islam and Religious Freedom Action Team
  • Christian Legal Society
  • National Association of Evangelicals
  • The Sikh Coalition
  • Liberty University School of Law
  • National Council of Young Israel
  • Sikh Americans Veteran Alliance

Also voicing their support for Alex were four fire fighters and paramedics-Jewish and Muslim-who in 2007 won a permanent injunction prohibiting Washington, DC from enforcing a requirement that they be clean-shaven. Now recently retired or nearing retirement, each worked for the DC fire department for over 30 years. Some of them regularly donned protective face masks and entered hazardous situations-something that Alex’s role does not even require. Their brief and others recounted how fire departments and the military have found ways to safely provide religious and medical accommodations to clean-shaven requirements.

While amicus briefs are common for Supreme Court cases, they are very rare at the appeals court level. So, it’s very significant to have this many briefs supporting Alex.

We’re incredibly grateful for the strong interfaith coalition that has rallied around this case. And after many years of feeling alone in his fight, Alex is tremendously encouraged, too. This broad showing of support highlights just how vital his case is as we fight to secure the religious freedom that the law guarantees. It’s about far more than one man’s beard.

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