In this opinion piece Joseph R. Reisert, associate professor of American constitutional law, explores the issue of religious liberty. He examines the Supreme Court case Holt v. Hobbes, in which Gregory Houston Holt, a convert to Islam and inmate at the Arkansas Department of Corrections, wishes to grow a beard but is forbidden by prison policy to do so. Recognizing that Holt is not an upstanding moral citizen, Reisert argues that he still has a right to practice his religion: “That right has long held a privileged place in our laws, because it belongs to us as a consequence of our basic humanity.”

Reisert further explores the origins of the religious freedom law, examining the relationship between ideals of individual expression and freedom and the United States’ government.