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Pews in Ebenezer Baptist Church

Source: Gary S Chapman / Getty

Alexander Smith is a pastor and firefighter. The Christian Post is reporting that the pastor has filed a federal lawsuit against Atlantic City, the fire department’s chief as well as the deputy chief for threatening to suspend him if he didn’t shave his beard.

Smith mentioned that he grew it for religious reasons.

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The pastor leads the Community Harvesters Church and believes his superiors were violating his religious freedoms under the First Amendment.

Smith currently works as an air mask technician and makes about $115,000 a year from the department.

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In December, he decided to grow his beard and in January tried to get a special accommodation for the over 3-inch beard, which is prohibited by the fire department’s guidelines.

His request was denied because they had, “overwhelming safety concerns.”

Smith argued and mentioned that as an air mask technician, when he’s responding to fires it’s, “solely for the purpose of refilling SCBA air bottles.” In the lawsuit it also stated, “His job responsibilities do not include participation in extinguishing fires or search and rescue.”

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He is required to show up clean shaven for now. Smith’s attorney has filed an order against the shaving requirement until the lawsuit is resolved.

His church believes that growing a beard is scriptural practice because, “many of the prophets in the Bible wore beards.”