Jun 7, 2011 11:31 AM by Kate Durio

Incarcerated Woman Forced to Remove Religious Head Covering

The ACLU has sent a letter to the Lafayette Sheriff's Office concering a Muslim woman, who the ACLU says was incarcerated in the Lafayette Parish Jail last year,and was forced by the Sheriff to remove her religiously mandated head covering, known as a hijab, because jail policies do not provide for head coverings of any kind. Today in the letter, the ACLU of Louisiana asks Lafayette Sheriff Michael W. Neustrom to change the policy to allow jail inmates to wear head coverings mandated by their religious beliefs.

"For a Muslim woman wearing a hijab, being denied it is akin to being stripped naked," said Marjorie R. Esman, Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana. "This woman asked nothing more than to wear religiously mandated garb, and she was denied that fundamental right. Louisiana law and the US Constitution, require governments to accommodate religious beliefs unless there is a compelling interest, which simply does not exist in this case."

The ACLU argues that the woman in question, arrested for traffic violations, asked Sheriff agents to allow her to wear her hijab in public and when men were present, to protect her modesty as her religion requires. But the ACLU says even that request was denied.

"Even in prison, religion must be respected," said Esman. "There can be no reason to deny someone the basic right to wear religious garb. Governments, including Lafayette Parish, must do what they can to accommodate sincere religious beliefs, if religion is to thrive."

The ACLU has asked Sheriff Neustrom to amend his policies within fourteen days to accommodate religiously mandated head coverings.

A copy of the ACLU's letter is available online at:




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