Suit: While in Custody, Deputies Ripped Off My Hijab

Jennifer Hyatt says Ventura County officers yanked off her hijab while she was in custody
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 8, 2018 2:03 PM CDT
Jennifer Hyatt (not shown here) says she was treated like "trash."   (Getty Images/Ibrakovic)

(Newser) – What started out as a husband-wife incident has led to a federal lawsuit against the sheriff's office in California's Ventura County after the wife says deputies forcibly removed her head scarf while in custody. The Los Angeles Times reports on the case of nurse Jennifer Hyatt, 44, who was detained on Jan. 1, 2017, after a dispute with her husband, says an attorney with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which is representing Hyatt in the suit, per a release. Hyatt says a deputy yanked part of her two-piece hijab off her head and wouldn't give it back. She says when she relayed it was a religious necessity because she was a Muslim, a deputy replied, "Not in here, you're not." A second deputy allegedly removed the second piece of her hijab. "I was spoken to like I was trash," she says.

Hyatt's complaint says she "experienced humiliation when both her religious beliefs and personal integrity were violated," per Courtroom News. The Arkansas native adds that she's "shocked and disappointed" this could happen in the "supposedly tolerant state of California." The Times notes what the deputies allegedly did may be a violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which protects prisoners' religious rights. An LAPD officer says that in his department, police can ask a detainee to remove a religious item like a hijab, but only for a quick search; the detainee would then get the covering back, or a see-through alternative. Hyatt's suit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. A rep from the sheriff's office wouldn't comment. (New York City reached a big settlement with three Muslims.)

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