Georgia City Agrees to Adapt Courthouse Security Screenings to Accommodate Religious Head Coverings

Muslim Woman Sued City After Being Jailed for Protesting Policy Forcing Her to Remove Headscarf FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org ATLANTA – The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Georgia and the law firm of Carlton Fields secured a settlement from the city of Douglasville, Ga. today on behalf of a Muslim woman who was told she could not enter a municipal courtroom unless she removed her religious headgear and was jailed for contempt of court and forced to remove her headscarf when she protested. According to today’s settlement, Douglasville has adopted a screening policy allowing people who enter the courthouse wearing a religious headcovering the option to be screened in a private area by an officer of the same gender and ensures that people who wear religious headcoverings will not be forced to remove it in public and may wear their religious headcoverings in the courtroom. In December 2008, Lisa Valentine attempted to accompany her nephew to his traffic hearing before the Douglasville Municipal Court but was told it was against court policy to wear headgear in court. After she protested and attempted to leave, officers restrained and arrested her, forced her to remove her head covering, and jailed her for several hours. “We are glad that the city of Douglasville has acknowledged that the way that Ms. Valentine was treated was inexcusable and unlawful,” said Azadeh Shahshahani, an attorney with the ACLU of Georgia. “No one should feel singled out in a court of law simply for observing her faith.” “The ACLU is fighting hard to secure religious freedom throughout the United States, and Carlton Fields was very pleased to be a part of its crusade by assisting Ms. Valentine with her case,” said Gail Podolsky, an attorney with Carlton Fields. Following Valentine’s arrest, the judge issued a rule allowing for “special provisions” to be made for those who choose to wear religious head coverings in the courtroom, and the city of Douglasville issued a press release admitting that the officer who stopped Valentine did not inform her of an alternative procedure that would have allowed her to keep her head covering. In July 2009, the Georgia Judicial Council adopted a non-binding policy clarifying that religious head coverings can be worn in Georgia courthouses. According to today’s settlement, Douglasville has adopted a screening policy allowing people who enter the courthouse wearing a religious headcovering the option to be screened in a private area by an officer of the same gender and ensures that people who wear religious headcoverings will not be forced to remove it in public and may wear their religious headcoverings in the courtroom. “I am glad that Douglasville has agreed to formal policies to make sure this never happens to anyone else.” said Valentine. “Acknowledging that I was improperly treated was the least that my city could do.” “The idea that everyone is equal before the law is a hallmark of American justice, so nobody should be treated unfairly when she enters a courthouse,” said Ariela Migdal, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. “These simple provisions will ensure that Muslim women receive the same respect and access to civic participation as anyone else.” “Any government – local, state or federal – should expect to be held accountable when it intrudes on someone’s right to observe her faith,” said Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief. “That is why today’s settlement is so important.” The policy can be viewed at: www.aclu.org/religion-belief/valentine-v-city-douglasville-valentine-hea… For more information on this case, please visit: www.aclu.org/religion-belief-womens-rights/valentine-v-city-douglasville

ATTORNEY ADVERTISEMENT:  This communication or portions thereof may be considered "advertising" as defined by Section 6157(c) of the California Business and Professions Code or within the jurisdiction in which you are viewing this.  Nothing in the discussion above is intended to be a representation or guarantee about the outcome of any legal proceeding in which you may be involved.  By providing the information above in this format, Michel & Associates is not soliciting you to hire it to handle a specific legal matter you may currently have or be anticipating commencing in the future.  Notwithstanding the discussion above, you should not act or refrain from acting on the basis of any content on this site without seeking appropriate legal advice regarding your particular circumstances from an attorney licensed to practice law.  This communication is informational only and does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Michel & Associates.  Michel & Associates's attorneys are licensed to practice in California, Texas, and the District of Columbia.