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A federal court has denied a Muslim inmate's lawsuit claiming the Virginia prison system violated his religious rights by refusing to allow him to grow a 1/8-inch beard.

William Couch challenged the Department of Corrections' grooming policy that bans long hair or beards.

A federal court in Harrisonburg sided with the department Thursday.

Couch's attorney, Jeffrey Fogel, filed an appeal Monday. He argues the beard is too short to allow Couch to easily change his appearance or hide weapons, which is the department's reason for the policy.

A federal appellate court ruled against a group of inmates who sued the department after the grooming policy was instituted in 1999. Several lived in segregation for more than a decade until the department developed a separate living space for them last year.




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