The following was written by Las Vegas Police Detective Steve Riback, an observant Orthodox Jew and submitted to YWN after reading comments posted on yesterdays story (HERE). [A federal judge ruled that the department’s no-beard policy violated the First Amendment right of religious freedom]
Let me set the record straight on many issues raised on this site about my case.
1. Those of you with the opinion that I should of kept quiet or gone with the status quo certainly are entitled to your opinion. My personal opinion is that we as Jews can not sit idly by while others try to force us into assimilation, we do this at such an alarming rate as it is. In addition, when do I draw the line, when they force me to eat treif (eh, it’s just treif, don’t rock the boat) or work Shabbos when I have well-established seniority for those days off (who cares, it’s just Shabbos, we’re Jews, we don’t like conflict and don’t bring attention to ourselves. You may decide to stay quiet, I have decided that I will most certainly speak up!!!
2. There are 5 policies that have changed as a result of me pointing
out inconsistencies and the department attempting to cover things up. Also, religion (other then Judaism) is so pervasive throughout my department. This was never an issue until a Jewish guy attempted to wear a beard and head covering.
3. I knew the rules when I started working on the department but the law does not say you can never change your beliefs, values, religion, etc. That argument would never allow a female officer to become pregnant while being employed or an officer getting injured on the job from ever working again. Both circumstances should of known the rules when they applied that being pregnant or injured would preclude you from performing the duties of the job.
4. I asked to wear ANY headcovering (baseball cap and even a department issued police hat) and was denied both. In addition, the department allows medical beards to worn. What is baffling is that I was denied things that WERE ALREADY ALLOWED for others. That can’t be any clearer for discrimination. You may refer to as me being pushy to point this out, I couldn’t disagree more!
5. I became observant through Chabad and am forever indebted for them welcoming me and igniting a spark in me. I took this on because I am a Jew and standing up for principles of our faith along with the principles of the Constitution.
6. The ACLU was the ONLY organization that assisted me through this entire event. There is a lot of heartburn for them by others but they stood (and proudly continue to) stand along side me during this fight. I only have the deepest respect for the organization from what I have directly seen, not what I caught in a 20 second snipit on tv or heard on the radio about the organization. I have walked a mile in these shoes, how about you?
7. I asked for an accommodation to wear a beard and head covering. Both items are already allowed on the department currently so to say that my requests are somehow underminding uniformity and are unreasonable requests simply don’t hold water. I am all for uniformity but the department destroyed that aspect on their own when they allowed medical beards.
Finally, I realize that I essentially work in an environment that I sued based on them not adhering to the U.S. Constitution and that my career is most likely soured by my choice. I was raised to stand up for things I believe in and to speak up when things aren’t right. That is what I am doing and I encourage you all to always support those people who do. It is a fundamental right and something we should all be proud of the ability of speaking up and taking action while living in this great country with the amazing freedoms we all have. One of the best is the freedom to practice our religion. As appealing as Afghanistan sounds, we all know that when it comes to religious freedoms, they come up a tad short in that department.