The court agreed Monday to hear two cases during its next term that involve matters of personal hygiene in vastly different settings.
In one case, the court will decide whether an Arkansas prison inmate must be allowed to grow a short beard in accordance with his religious beliefs. The justices will hear an appeal from inmate Gregory Holt, who says his Muslim beliefs require him to grow a beard.
State corrections officials say their grooming policy prohibiting beards promotes hygiene and safety. The court previously blocked the state from forcing Holt to shave the beard while the appeal was under consideration.
The 38-year-old Holt is serving a life sentence for domestic violence and burglary. Prosecutors alleged that Holt cut his girlfriend's throat and stabbed her in the chest at her mobile home.
Holt's initial petition to the court was handwritten and filed without the benefit of an attorney, but he has since been represented by a lawyer.
Separately, the high court is taking up a North Carolina case in which the state's dental regulatory board argues that only dentists should be allowed to whiten teeth. The state Board of Dental Examiners is challenging a lower court ruling and an order by the Federal Trade Commission that said the board engaged in unfair competition in the market for teeth-whitening services by shutting down businesses such as day spas and tanning booths that offered the service.
The board sued the FTC in 2011, saying the agency overstepped its authority. But the federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., sided with the FTC.
One appeals court judge said the board would have had a stronger case if its members were elected or appointed by state government officials rather than by other dentists.
Both cases will be argued in the fall.
In other cases, the court:
— Will hear a dispute over whether workers who spend time waiting in a line to get security screenings have to be paid for that time.
— Agreed to decide whether a juror's comments during trial deliberations can be used to show dishonesty during the jury selection process.
— Declined to take up appeals from two local governments in Texas and Pennsylvania that wanted to prevent people who are in the U.S. illegally from renting apartments.
— Turned away a new appeal from the human rights group Center for constitutional Rights challenging a Bush-era warrantless wiretapping program.
— Declined to hear an appeal from a German family seeking asylum in the United States because their home country does not allow home schooling.