(ANAHEIM, CA, 10/3/2018) – The Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA), in conjunction with Erin Darling Law, today announced a tentative settlement 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 terms of the agreement – pending official approval by the county Board of Supervisors and signatures from all involved parties – include the county paying $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.
SEE: Lawsuit settlement
“We are pleased that we hopefully have been able to come to a resolution that not only benefits our client but would provide protection for other Muslims detained in Ventura County,” said CAIR-LA Managing Civil Rights Attorney Marwa Rifahie.
Hyatt, 44, was arrested on Jan. 1, 2017, in Thousand Oaks, Calif. 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.
In its statement, the Sheriff’s Office noted: “However, because her hijab was for religious purposes, she should have been offered an accommodation, such as an alternative form of head covering.”
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, 14th 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
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.
SEE: California Muslims sue over hijab discrimination
“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 joins others throughout Southern California 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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org