June 7, 2023

(SACRAMENTO, CA – 6/7/2023) – The California chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-CA) welcomed the successful, unanimous and bipartisan passage of SB 309 and AB 1503 through their first chambers of the California State Legislature.  

Those bills are joined by the previous week’s Senate passage of SB 461. All three bills were advocated for at CAIR-CA’s Muslim Day at the Capitol held on May 22, which garnered the attendance of over 400 American Muslims from across the state.  

SB 309, authored by Senator Dave Cortese and sponsored by CAIR-CA, aims to create a statewide policy ensuring the right to religious headwear, clothing, and grooming for those in California’s carceral system. Currently, the provision is applied inconsistently throughout the state and does not meet the heightened protections under federal law. The bill was heard and passed through the Senate Public Safety Committee and Senate Appropriations Committee.  

AB 1503, authored by Assemblymember Alex Lee and sponsored by CAIR-CA, seeks to grant students in K–12 a full day of excused absence time per semester for religious purposes. Currently, students in K–12 are only allotted four hours per semester for religious purposes. The bill was heard and passed through the Assembly Education Committee and Assembly Appropriations Committee.  

In a statement, CAIR-CA Policy & Government Affairs Manager Nazeehah Khan said:  

“The passage of both bills marks a significant step forward in safeguarding the civil rights and liberties of all Californians, particularly religious minorities and those who are incarcerated. SB 461, AB 1503, and SB 309 collectively demonstrate a commitment to inclusivity and respect for the diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds within our state across all walks of life.  

“These bills provide robust protections against discrimination, ensuring that every individual, regardless of their faith, can freely exercise their religious beliefs without fear of prejudice or bias. This legislative victory not only reflects principles of justice and equality but also serves as an inspiration for other states to follow suit in protecting the civil liberties of religious minorities and those who are incarcerated.  

“We thank the legislature for their commitment to inclusion, Senator Cortese and Assemblymember Lee for championing civil rights for all Californians, and coauthors Assemblymembers Reyes, Kalra, Arambula, and Rendon for their strong support. We are grateful to partner with lawmakers who value and prioritize the safety of California’s religious minorities.”     

As part of a continuous effort to improve religious accommodations and create safe working environments, CAIR-CA has also worked in previous years to advocate for laws such as AB 1964 (2012), which allowed religious dress and grooming practices to be covered by protections against religious discrimination in the workplace.  

The bills will now cross over to their second chambers where they must pass through the chamber’s committees and floor votes.  

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 San Diego Executive Director Tazheen Nizam, tnizam@cair.com, 760-201-7626.