January 9, 2015 12:16 PM EST

A Muslim sailor is suing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and other top U.S. military officials after he was denied a religious waiver to keep a beard four years ago.

The former boot camp instructor, Jonathan Berts, wishes to return to active duty and believes his case is strengthened by a January 2014 Pentagon decree that relaxed rulings for religious dress and grooming. His lawyers filed the lawsuit on Dec. 22, the Navy Times reports.

After his waiver was denied in 2011, Berts, who served in the Navy for nine years, filed an appeal. Berts was then assigned to stand watch at “an empty, cockroach-infested barracks” and later received an honorable discharge that made him ineligible to reenlist, according to the report. Berts claims that his application was rejected and record dismissed in part for making too much “noise” about the process.

[Navy Times]

Contact us at letters@time.com.

Read More From TIME

Related Stories

EDIT POST