PHILADELPHIA - The US government sued Philadelphia's school district for religious discrimination on Wednesday for demanding that a veteran Muslim police officer trim his beard.

The suit, filed in US District Court by the Department of Justice, said the nation's eighth-largest school district passed a grooming policy in 2010 that mandated beards on police and security officers be no longer than one-quarter of an inch (6.35 mm).

The officer in question, Siddiq Abu-Bakr, keeps an untrimmed beard longer than one-quarter of an inch in adherence to his Islamic faith, the suit said.

In the Philadelphia case, Abu-Bakr has maintained an untrimmed beard for his 27 years with the district "without evidence that the maintenance of an uncut beard has interfered with his job performance," a Justice Department statement said.

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