March 27, 2024
Department of Justice

(SACRAMENTO, CA – 3/27/2024) – The California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CA) today welcomed the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) decision to seek a court order to stop the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) from denying religious accommodations for correctional officers.  

SEE: Justice Department Seeks Court Order to Stop California Department of Corrections from Requiring Correctional Officers to Violate Religious Beliefs 

On Monday, March 25, the DOJ announced that it is challenging the CDCR on its denial of religious accommodations for correctional officers, including Sikhs and Muslims, who wear beards as an expression of their faith. The CDCR implemented a revised facial hair policy last year and has repeatedly denied religious accommodation requests, forcing officers to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs by shaving their beards or risk losing their jobs.  

The DOJ maintains that many officers successfully performed their jobs while wearing facial hair for years before the CDCR updated its policies. The action seeks a temporary court order allowing officers to wear beards in accordance with their religious beliefs while the CDCR assesses options that both comply with California safety regulations and provide religious accommodations to officers who request them.  

In a statement, CAIR-CA CEO Hussam Ayloush said: 

“CAIR’s civil rights attorneys regularly receive complaints from Muslims who are denied the right to follow religious grooming practices, such as wearing a beard, in their place of employment. Being able to exercise their faith freely is a constitutional right, and employees should not have to choose between their job and their religious beliefs. 

“We thank the DOJ for taking action to combat discrimination and to protect the right to religious expression for those of all faiths working in California correctional facilities.” 

Last year, CAIR-CA co-sponsored SB 309 which aimed to create a statewide policy ensuring the right to religious headwear, clothing, and grooming to those in California’s carceral system. Previously, the provision was applied inconsistently throughout the state and did not meet the heightened protections under federal law. The bill was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom in October 2023.  

To report any form of religious discrimination, contact your local CAIR office or click here to file a report. 

CAIR-CA is a chapter of CAIR, America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.       

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CONTACT: CAIR-LA Digital Communications Manager Enjy El-Kadi,, (714) 851-4851