(ANAHEIM, CA, 11/6/2018) – The Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA), in conjunction with Erin Darling Law, today announced a settlement has been finalized with Ventura County and the county’s Sheriff’s Office on behalf of a Muslim woman who had her religious head scarf (hijab) removed by Ventura County sheriff’s deputies while in custody.

The Ventura County Board of Supervisors approved the $75,000 to Jennifer Hyatt and her attorneys and a new accommodation policy for religious head coverings in the Sheriff’s Office written policy manual. The policy manual update would formalize the process by which accommodations are granted for religious head coverings. The settlement includes the adoption of a comprehensive policy that allows detainees to have a religious accommodation by being searched in a private screening area by deputies of the same sex, being allowed to wear religious head covering in booking photos and through the duration of their detention.

“This settlement is a huge victory for first amendment rights in detention. Ventura County has done the right thing by adopting one of the best religious accommodations policies in the nation” said CAIR-LA Managing Civil Rights Attorney Marwa Rifahie.

Hyatt, 44, was arrested on Jan. 1, 2017, in Thousand Oaks, California. During the booking process at the Ventura County Jail, Hyatt was told by deputies that she would have to remove her head scarf despite her request to continue wearing her hijab or be provided an alternative head covering. However, in violation of Hyatt’s religious beliefs, deputies removed her head covering.

“I am happy to have achieved something with this lawsuit that will help protect other Muslim women in their dealings with law enforcement” said Jennifer Hyatt. “I hope that my case will encourage other victims of discrimination to come forward and take action.”

On May 7, 2018, CAIR-LA, in conjunction with Erin Darling Law, filed a lawsuit on Hyatt’s behalf, alleging violations under the First Amendment, Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), and the California Constitution.

SEE: Muslim woman sues Ventura County Sheriff’s Department, says deputies forced her to remove hijab while jailed


“Muslim women have the right to be covered – even in jail,” she said. “In these increasingly intolerant times I am grateful for the tentative agreement on a change in the policies to ensure that the First Amendment right to freedom of religion is respected,” said civil rights and criminal defense attorney Erin Darling. “We are pleased the County of Ventura agreed to save the taxpayers the expense of further litigation and was willing to implement a new accommodation policy to protect those rights.”

Ventura County joins the neighboring jurisdictions of the city of Long Beach, San Bernardino County and Orange County, which adopted policies protecting religious headwear in detention following similar lawsuits that were settled in 2017, 2008 and 2013, respectively.

“While municipalities across the country are allowing arrestees to retain religious head coverings, California municipalities have been slow to enact policies that prevent the discrimination this lawsuit seeks to prevent,” Rifahie said. “This policy change made in Ventura County will provide a link throughout Southern California of municipalities that have adopted policies protecting the right to wear religious head coverings while in custody.”

CAIR offers a booklet, called “A Law Enforcement Official’s Guide to the Muslim Community,” which outlines basic information about Islamic beliefs that are relevant to law enforcement.  It also covers issues such as the rights of Muslim law enforcement officers; religiously-sensitive techniques for body searches; proper etiquette for entering Muslim homes; and advice on outreach to the Islamic community.

SEE: A Law Enforcement Official’s Guide to the Muslim Community http://www.cair.com/images/pdf/law_enforcement_guide.pdf

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.


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CONTACT: CAIR-LA Communications Manager Eugene W. Fields, 714-776-1847 or email efields@cair.com