Medina v. County of San Bernardino

October 30, 2008

On December 5, 2007, the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of Jameelah Medina, a practicing Muslim woman who was forced by local deputies to remove her headscarf (hijab) while she was in custody in San Bernardino County's West Valley Detention Center.

Jameelah Medina

On December 5, 2007, the ACLU of Southern California, ACLU Women's Rights Project, and ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief filed a lawsuit on behalf of Jameelah Medina, a practicing Muslim woman who was forced by local deputies to remove her headscarf (hijab) while she was in custody in San Bernardino County's West Valley Detention Center. Ms. Medina was arrested in 2005 at a Metrolink's commuter rail system station for having an invalid train pass and was taken to the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga for processing. Ms. Medina, who was born in the United States and raised in a Muslim family, wears a headscarf to cover her hair, ears, neck, and part of her chest in public and in the presence of men who are not her immediate family members, in accordance with her religious beliefs. Despite her repeated requests to keep her head covered during her day-long incarceration, she was forced to remove her hijab in the presence of male guards and to remain uncovered for much of the day. Ms. Medina was never prosecuted in connection with the arrest.

The ACLU sued the County and its officials for violating Ms. Medina's rights under the First Amendment of the Constitution, the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA, which protects the religious rights of people confined to institutions), the California Constitution, and a California civil rights statute. Federal district Judge Virginia A. Phillips denied the County's Motion to Dismiss in February 2008. In November 2008, in a court-approved settlement, the county agreed to change its policies to accommodate the religious practices of women who wear hijab, and trains its officers on the policy to ensure that no woman will be treated the way Ms. Medina was.

LEARN MORE
> Fact Sheet: Discrimination Against Muslim Women
> Muslim Woman Sues San Bernardino County Over Religious Freedom in Jail (12/6/2007)
> Blog: Court Allows Muslim Woman's Headscarf Case to Proceed (2/27/2008)
> "Rialto Muslim woman's headscarf lawsuit allowed to move forward," Press Enterprise (2/25/2008)

OTHER HIJAB CASES
> Webb v. City of Philadelphia - Amicus Brief
> Barns v. Gifford - ACLU-NV Complaint
> Hussein v. City of Omaha - Press Release
> Freeman v. State of Florida - Press Release

Podcast: Jameelah Medina talks about the day of her arrest, and how the officers' treatment affected her.
Podcast: Ariela Migdal, Staff Attorney for the ACLU's Women's Rights Project, talks about Jameelah's case.
Blog: My Hijab, My Right
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