OC Settles with ACLU to Allow Head Scarves for Muslim Defendants

A six-year legal battle ended today with Orange County agreeing to allow Muslim defendants to wear a traditional hijab and pay $85,000 in damages and fees.

After six years of litigation, Orange County settled a religious discrimination lawsuit filed on behalf of a Muslim woman who was forced to remove her traditional head scarf while she was in a courthouse holding cell, the ACLU announced today.

Orange County officials will no longer require Muslim women in custody to remove their head scarf, known as a hijab, said attorney Mark Rosenbaum of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.

Said plaintiff Souhair Khatib of Anaheim: "I praise Allah and thank Him that I live in a country where I can practice my religion freely. While not everyone understands Islam or what it requires of me, I'm grateful that the U.S. government protects my right to fulfill my duty to Allah, whether at work, on a public street or, yes, even in a sheriff's holding facility."

Law enforcement officers will be trained about ordering Muslim women to remove hijabs, and the county will pay $85,000 in damages, fees and court costs.

The Orange County Sheriff's Department issued this statement:

"The Orange County Sheriff's Department respects the constitutionally guaranteed religious rights of all persons. As agreed to in the settlement, we have implemented new policies and conducted training with our personnel specific to the wearing of religious head garments. These changes will ensure the security needs of our custodial facilities are met and at the same time respect the religious freedoms of those held in our custody.

"In addition, the department has established a quarterly meeting with our religious volunteers from the various faiths, including Islam, to ensure our personnel are sensitive to the needs of our inmate population and to find ways to enhance the services they provide.

"Maintaining the balance of Constitutional guarantees with the safety and well-being of those entrusted into our custody is a dynamic undertaking and we will continue to work with our community partners to meet that challenge."

Sheriff's deputies had Khatib remove her hijab twice while in a holding cell at the North County Justice Center in Fullerton. They wanted the scarf removed, because it could be considered a weapon.

The lawsuit was filed in 2007 and came before U.S. District Judge David O. Carter in Santa Ana, who sided with county officials.

A panel of federal appellate justices agreed with Carter in May 2010, but in December 2010 the full Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 11-0 to reverse Carter's ruling.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up the case in October 2011.

"It's a landmark settlement," Rosenbaum told City News Service.

"It means religious freedom doesn't stop at the courthouse door. Muslim women inside the facility will be allowed to honor their religious views without having to sacrifice them to the security concerns of Orange County law enforcement."

Rosenbaum commended Orange County officials for settling.

"It's a terrific victory, especially a post-9/11 victory for Muslims," Rosenbaum said. "It's another way of saying we're all equal under the Constitution."

- City News Service


Are you in favor of the county's new police allowing for hijabs in courtroom holding tanks?

Dan Avery February 19, 2013 at 05:36 AM
There was a time in this country when The Dumb and the Willfully Ignorant worked on assembly lines and wanted nothing more when they got off work other than "Miller Time," a woman with a retarded sense of morality, and a double=wide they could call "home." Then can downsizing, outsourcing, Bush the Second's devaluation of the dollar, and the economic collapse of 2008. Now The Dumb and the Willfully Ignorant are unemployable so they spend their days comment on the Patch. Even when the article deals with topics they know nothing of; they live to spew their ignorance and hatred. They don't use their real names because they claim speaking your mind can be dangerous. Tell that to Martin Luther King, Jr. Malcolm X, Nathan Hale, Thomas Paine... They are cowards and like all cowards they bully if you point out their complete lack of logic. They ruin online communication and any chance we may have had to learn from each other. They will continue to do so until we stand up and shout them down.
John Barelli April 07, 2013 at 07:10 AM
Okay, I'm confused. You believe in civil liberties, and even agree that Muslim women should be allowed to wear scarves, a right that the county was denying them. The only large organization that has the resources to fight these cases is the ACLU, and they routinely do so, regardless of the popularity of the people involved. And that makes them the worst entity in the US? Really?
Joker Joe April 07, 2013 at 07:05 PM
Solo I did not know you could read a person on the internet! Do u work for CSI? Any degree in physc?
Dan Avery April 08, 2013 at 05:00 PM
Bonney, You should look up the word "libel" and then find a good attorney. I am not fooling. You crossed the line and I'm coming for you.
badazzbitch May 13, 2013 at 10:44 PM
God forbid you ever have to do a shoe term Mike.


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