Firefighter sues, says he grew beard as born-again Christian

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey firefighter has filed a civil rights lawsuit alleging that he is being forced to shave a beard he says he grew for religious reasons.

NJ.com reports that Atlantic City firefighter Alexander Smith says in his lawsuit he began growing out his beard in December as a born-again Christian. He says the department is threatening to suspend him without pay.

Fire department guidelines prohibit beards and goatees, saying facial hair can affect the seal of the breathing mask firefighters wear while battling fires.

Smith works as an air mask technician and says he has never had to enter a burning building or wear a mask in his role.

A request for comment was left with Fire Chief Scott Evans and Deputy Chief Thomas Culleny Jr.

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