Jameelah Medina is a 29-year old Muslim-American woman, born and raised in Southern California. Ms. Medina is a self-published author and is pursuing her PhD in education at Claremont Graduate University. She works as a business trainer and lives in San Bernardino County with her husband.
Ms. Medina has been a practicing Muslim her entire life, and as a part of her religious practice, she wears a hijab (headscarf) to cover her hair, ears, neck, and part of her chest when she is in public and when she is in the presence of men who are not members of her immediate family.
On December 7, 2005, while commuting to work, Ms. Medina was arrested at the Pomona Station of the commuter rail for having an invalid train pass. Craig Roberts, a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputy, handcuffed Ms. Medina and drove her to the West Valley Detention Center. During the car ride, Roberts aggressively questioned Ms. Medina about her choice to wear a headscarf, her choice of religion, and whether she sympathizes with suicide bombers. He accused Ms. Medina of being a terrorist and of supporting Saddam Hussein. While Ms. Medina tried calmly to answer his questions and explain that she does not support terrorism, he yelled at her that Muslims are evil and that the United States was in Iraq at God’s direction to squash evil.
Upon arrival at the jail, the female booking officer ordered Ms. Medina to remove her hijab. She responded that she could not take it off because she wears it for religious reasons. The officer threatened that she could delay Ms. Medina’s processing and release if she did not comply. As a result, Ms. Medina was forced to remove her hijab in front of Roberts, who made a point of staring at her, in violation of her religious conviction that she must always be covered in the presence of men who are not her immediate family members. Despite her repeated requests and attempts to keep her head covered during her day-long incarceration, she was forced to remain uncovered for much of the day, including in the presence of additional male officers. At one point Ms. Medina took off the thermal undershirt she was wearing and put it on her head in an attempt to cover herself, but the officer who had taken her headscarf away told her she was not allowed to put anything on her head. Ms. Medina was released that evening and was never prosecuted in connection with the arrest.
In December 2007 the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the San Bernardino County for violating Ms. Medina’s religious freedom rights.
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