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12 Days of Religious Liberty - Day 2

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December 15, 2011

During what is often referred to as the holiday season, a variety of cultures and religions honor an equally diverse number of both religious and secular traditions. Christmas, Hanukkah, and Bodhi Day are just some of the religious holidays that are celebrated this time of year. And for many who don’t subscribe to a particular faith tradition, the season is still seen as an occasion to gather with friends and family.

No matter why you are celebrating this holiday season, we can all celebrate living in a country where religious freedom is a fundamental value. The First Amendment’s Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses not only protect the right to believe (or not to believe), but also the right to express and to manifest religious beliefs.

In honor of our country’s proud history of promoting religious freedom, and the ACLU’s commitment to protecting the rights of all religious believers to practice their faith, this holiday season we are highlighting 12 cases we have brought on behalf of a variety of faiths defending religious liberty and the right to religious expression.

Second Day: An Expression of Faith: ACLU Defends Muslim Woman’s Right to Wear Religious Head Covering
The ACLU vigorously defends the right to practice and express your religion openly and publicly, which includes certain forms of religious expression in courthouses. In 2008, Lisa Valentine, a devout Muslim, accompanied her nephew to Georgia’s Douglasville Municipal Court for his traffic hearing. While going through security, she was informed by an officer that she would have to remove her religious head covering before she entered the courtroom, due to the court’s “no headgear” policy. When she protested the policy, believing it to be a violation of her right to freely practice her faith, she was restrained, arrested, forced to remove her headscarf, and jailed.

Valentine – represented by the ACLU and the ACLU of Georgia filed a suit that accused Douglasville and the officers who arrested Valentine of violating her constitutional rights as well as her rights under federal law.

As a result of the suit the city has adopted a head covering screening policy which in part states that head coverings for religious or medical reasons may be allowed in courtroom. Read more…

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For more instances of the ACLU rigorously defending the rights of all religious believers to practice their faiths, please visit our website.

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