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Muslim Policewoman Barred from Wearing Khimar on the Job:

The khimar is "a headpiece ... which covers the hair, forehead, sides of the head, neck, shoulders, and chest," but not, at least in this instance, the face.

Philadelphia Police Department Directive 78 apparently prescribes a uniform uniform, with no exceptions for any religious apparel or any religious symbols. The case suggests that the uniform requirement is broad enough to exclude ashes on the forehead on Ash Wednesday, and therefore basically any non-uniform symbols.

Police officer Kimberlie Webb claimed that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 required the city to accommodate her religious practice by exempting her from the strict uniformity requirement, and letting her wear the khimar. Title VII does require employers to provide exemptions for employees whose religions conflict with generally applicable work rules, but not when granting such an exemption would create an "undue hardship" for the employer. Courts have set the "undue hardship" bar pretty low, so that anything "more than a de minimus cost" would constitute an "undue hardship" that the employer need not bear.

The court held that requiring a religious exemption from Directive 78 would indeed create an "undue hardship":

The Directive's detailed standards with no accomodation for religious symbols and attire not only promote the need for uniformity, but also enhance cohesiveness, cooperation, and the esprit de corps of the police force. Prohibiting religious symbols and attire helps to prevent any divisiveness on the basis of religion both within the force itself and when it encounters the diverse population of Philadelphia.... Police Directive 78 is designed to maintain religious neutrality, but in this case in a para-military organization for the good not only of the police officers themselves but also of the public in general.

Thanks for How Appealing for the pointer.

Erasmus (mail):
I'd have to see the policy, but I would assume she has a pretty strong case under the Free Exercise clause under Third Circuit jurisprudence. See Fraternal Order of Police v. City of Newark (3rd Cir. 1999)(holding that the Newark police department's no beard policy violated a Muslim's First Amendment rights). Whether she does have a a strong case will turn on whether there are secular exemptions to the policy. If there are secular exemptions, per the case above, the Free Exercise clause will not allow the Government to decide that those exemptions have more merit than religious exemptions.
6.13.2007 8:59pm
Tom R (mail):
All very well, but this then means that observant Muslim women are, in effect, barred from serving as police officers.

Yes, it does symbolically dilute governmental neutrality if non-Muslims get ticketed or arrested by a policewoman whose attire broadcasts the message "I have a loyalty (not necessarily my sole or even supreme loyalty, but some loyalty) to Islam."

But on the other hand, it also substantially dilutes governmental neutrality if serious Muslims can't serve as police. And I'll take symbolic dilution over substantial dilution, if forced to choose.

As the example of Northern Ireland shows (where Catholics/ Republicans boycotted and were excluded from the Royal Ulster Constabulary, so that they came to see it as a Protestants/ Unionists-only occupation force), this is bad not only for the [self-] excluded minority, but also for the majority.

In my home state of Queensland, Australia, I saw police recruitment posters that showed a variety of faces in uniform. One was a Sikh, with his police cap in a shape of a turban, in dark blue with the chequerboard pattern around it. This seems to me to convey the desired message nicely: "Yes, I am a Sikh by religion, but I am also a serving officer of the police force and am prepared to abide by its dress regulations, so long as the force in turn takes some effort to fit in people like me." There is some give and take on both sides.
6.13.2007 9:02pm
wooga:
All very well, but this then means that observant Muslim women are, in effect, barred from serving as police officers.

And what about the US Navy's combat regulations? All very well, but this then means that observant Quaker women are, in effect, barred from serving as Navy SEALS.
6.13.2007 9:16pm
pete (mail) (www):
"All very well, but this then means that observant Muslim women are, in effect, barred from serving as police officers."

Considering that observant Amish and other religious groups are barred as well, that does not seem that much of a problem since the police department does not care what religion you are, only that you wear the proper uniform. If your religion requires you to dress in a way that conflicts with a uniform that is unfortuante, but uniforms need to be uniform.

In a somewhat related experience, I was recently at an icecream shop where the girl behind the counter was wearing a similar garment as the one described above. One of my friends noticed that she handed the ice cream directly to the female customers in the store, but for the males in the store she either put it in a cup and slid it to the customer or got one of her coworkers to hand it to them so that she would not make physical contact with a male customer. I think it is fine that the store allowed her to do this even if it meant that she was treating me differently from her female customers solely based on my sex and her religious views since the effect was so minor I did not notice it until someone pointed it out to me. But the employer should not be forced to allow her to do this by the courts nor should the police be forced to change their reasonable rules about uniforms to suit her beliefs.
6.13.2007 9:30pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Erasmus, if I recall correctly, Newark lost because they allowed an exception to the no-beard requirement for those with skin conditions that made it not possible for them to shave regularly. The court found that since some exception to the requirement was allowed, then the religious exemption wouldn't pose too great a hardship. Had the city had a no-exceptions requirement, they might have prevailed.

As for the general issue, we have a secular government, and it is entirely appropriate to prohibit its officers charged with enforcing the law from publicly displaying their religious affiliation while in the performance of their jobs.
6.13.2007 9:37pm
Erasmus (mail):
PatHMV, I think your description of the case is the same as mine. "Had the city had a no-exceptions requirement, they might have prevailed." Thus, this case will turn on whether there are secular exemptions.
6.13.2007 9:49pm
Malvolio:
There are two issues here: one is the "neutral rule of general applicability", and it would seem to turn of the existence of secular exemptions (although I would wonder what would happen if someone claimed that he believed, e.g., that the Flying Spaghetti Monster wanted him to wear a beard or a khimar)

Second, though, the Department seems to be deliberately attacking religious symbols. Earrings (at least on female officers) might be acceptable, but an earring with a religious message (a Star of David, perhaps) would be excluded.
6.13.2007 10:13pm
whit:
exactly. i work with an officer who has that same skin condition. he can (and does) wear a beard...

the condition is called folliculitis iirc.

the point SHOULD be that cops should not advertise their religion to the public, or their lack thereof. we got that pesky church/state thing going.

allowing alternative religious uniforms broadcasts "i'm a muslim cop" or "i'm an amish cop" or whatever. and while it might make gooey multicultarists all excited - it's a bad idea.

christian officers CAN wear crosses - as long as they don't show to the public. ditto for any other religious symbol. but, much like a pledge pin - it has no place on a police uniform.

i guess since there are secular beard exceptions, then a religious beard should be allowed by this decision. i think that's absurd. a medical reason is far different than a religious reason. there's that pesky choice thing going.

i have no problem with allowing beards by choice (see: muslims)- as long as ALL officers are given that choice - regardless of religion.
6.13.2007 10:15pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Erasmus: As it happens, the court's opinion turns out to discuss the Fraternal Order of Police v. Newark question (which it has to, given that the district court is in the Third Circuit).

Malvolio: The opinion is unclear on earrings, and I couldn't find the policy; but the opinion's characterization of a policy is that the uniform is all that's permitted (possibly with an exception for earrings, but I doubt it), and no other items -- religious, secular ideological, or otherwise -- are permitted.
6.13.2007 10:17pm
whit:
malvolio,

at least in my agency, any VISIBLE religious accessories are verboten. earrings would be included. that's the best way to do it. if you want to wear your religious symbols at work- wear them concealed.

the question as to whether the uniform code should be the same for women and men is an interesting one. if women can wear earrings on the job, should men be allowed? imo, yes.
6.13.2007 10:19pm
JB:
If it covers that much, then it covers most of what makes it clear that a cop is a cop. Just a hijab ought to be fine, as it covers the head (except the face) and ties over the neck, leaving the chest covered only by normal clothing (say, a police uniform).

Personally, I think it's a clear issue--if the garb doesn't interfere with the job, there's no reason to restrict, if the garb does, there's no grounds to object.
6.13.2007 10:21pm
TruePath (mail) (www):
JB:

Once we are talking about government jobs I might be willing to agree with your claim.

However, I see no reason to give religious beliefs any special protection. If I just really like eating cheese during lunch or refuse to wear blue jeans an employer can fire me no matter how much I insist that I really, really don't want to do what he asks. Why should the fact that a religious person really wants something because he thinks god cares mean he gets an exception.

Frankly giving religious concerns special protection like this seems just flat out discriminatory. At least the protections for racial, gender, and country of origin categories are primarily interpreted to protect traditionally victimized groups and not the clear majority. However, these special religious protections are interpreted to protect the Christian majority from discrimination just as much as the small sect while denying the marginalized atheist the same treatment.

While I know the jurisprudence doesn't support it I think it would be better if the first amendment was interpreted to bar this sort of law as an unacceptable government endorsement of religion. The government shouldn't be able to give religions special privileges anymore than it could choose to give people who believe in Jesus special privileges.

Ughh, the whole idea that someone should get to use their lack of justification for a belief (faith) as an excuse to get that belief extra protection really annoys me.
6.13.2007 10:36pm
whit:
you understand nothing about law enforcement, or uniformed services in general if you think there is "no reason" to restrict.

uniforms vary, in a department, to reflect certain TASKS (like bike patrol might wear shorts, etc.) but not personal religious choices or beliefs.

allowing religious symbols is just as wrong as allowing cops to wear "kuchinich in 2008" buttons on their uniform, or private business solicitations.

cops represent the (awesome, awful, etc.) power of the state. they are the uniformed representative of the executive branch that routinely comes into contact with 'average' citizens - in many cases - whether they want to or not.

allowing specialized religious garb promotes at least the APPEARANCE of special brands of cops - muslim cop, christian cop, jewish cop, etc. when what the public SHOULD see is just plain COP

race is not a choice, so of course there is visual variation. ditto for bald or hirsute cops, tall and short cops, etc.

but when it comes to personal choices, especially those so personal as religion or political affiliation - that has NO part in a cop's uniform.

it is so grossly wrong.

the point is that a uniform should say COP, not muslim cop, jewish cop, christian cop, atheist cop, etc.
6.13.2007 10:38pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Most cops don't wear ties any longer when on patrol. But when they did, the ties were the clip-on kind, to prevent giving an extra handle to somebody they were fighting. Sort of like requiring only a short beard among Hebrew warriors, and for the same reason.
I gather the question is uniform policy. It would be interesting, though, to see about the garment's potential to be used against her in a scuffle.
6.13.2007 10:38pm
TruePath (mail) (www):
BTW I'm the user formerly known as logicnazi. Since it turns out some people don't get the Seinfeld reference or otherwise think I'm supporting fascist views I figure it might be in my best interest to at least change my visible online name before job applications. Not that VC is relevant but I might as well do it most places. Anyway just in case anyone wondered why I sounded so much like that other user.
6.13.2007 10:40pm
William Spieler (mail) (www):
Wait, wait...

The police is a paramilitary organization now?
6.13.2007 10:46pm
wb (mail):
RE: the exception for skin condition. This is not an exception for a employee preference. It is an accommodation of an employee disability that the Department should make pursuant to the ADA. I'd say that Newark did not argue its case well. They should have claimed to have no exceptions, only accommodations mandated by Federal statute.
6.13.2007 10:46pm
aces:
And what about the US Navy's combat regulations? All very well, but this then means that observant Quaker women are, in effect, barred from serving as Navy SEALS.

IIRC, all women are barred from serving as Navy SEALS.
6.13.2007 11:03pm
Tom R (mail):
Okay then. Job qualifications that meet the higher hurdle of "necessity" may exclude some groups, but that's unavoidable. If Navy Seals can't in good conscience kill anyone, even jihadis or Nazis, then they can't be admitted. Can't get around that. Can't set up a separate Quaker Seals division that only fires custard pies, not bullets, at the enemy.

When, however, the obstacle caused by the religious belief is more debatable, and especially when it's "symbolic" (I doubt anyone would care if the policewoman was wearing a headscarf because she's albino and it's a sunny day), then it must be balanced against the symbolic cost in the other direction.

Having "obviously Muslim" police officers is not ideal, but is it any better having a police force that is known to consist only of non-Muslims or of Muslims so liberal that other Muslims don't accept them as representing their religion?
6.13.2007 11:33pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
IIRC, all women are barred from serving as Navy SEALS.
Well, there is always Demi Moore.
6.13.2007 11:52pm
Elliot123 (mail):
In the case of Muslims, we pretty much accept whatever they say is their religious duty. If they say they have to wear an Abaya(black Saudi women's cloak), we accept that as their religious duty. If they say they have to wear a turban, we accept that as their religious duty. If they say they have to wear a ghuttra(male head cloth), we accept that as their religious duty. So, using the religious argument, any Muslim can say anything they choose is their religious duty. Since we don't know anything about Islam, we fall for it.

However, if a Christian said he had to wear sandals because Jesus wore sandals, would we accept that? If a Christian said he had to have shoulder length hair because Jesus had such hair, would we accept that? If a Christian said he had to wear a pectoral cross, would we accept that as being his religious duty? We accept whatever a Muslim says; why not accept whatever a Christian says? We don't accept that from Christians because we know it is nonsense.

Muslims make up religious duties and watch us fall all over ourselves trying to respect them.

The interesting things is that Muslim countries themselves do not fall for such nonsense. They prescribe a uniform and enforce it. They don't make exceptions for anything a particular Mulsim thinks is his religious duty. They know what we don't. They know Islam is very flexible regarding any such practices. And they laugh at us for falling for what they all know is a con job.
6.14.2007 12:14am
Billll:
Let her wear a baklava, approved of by both the police, and many Muslim organizations.
6.14.2007 12:19am
whit:
"Having "obviously Muslim" police officers is not ideal, but is it any better having a police force that is known to consist only of non-Muslims or of Muslims so liberal that other Muslims don't accept them as representing heir religion?"

yes. if being a "liberal muslim" means conforming to police dress code while on duty, then it IS better.

EVERY religion has the same burden - wear the uniform or don't be a cop.

no religion gets special treatment.

i'm not even going to bring up the case of the muslim cop who refused a duty assignment to protect the israeli embassy.

oh wait, i just did.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1887967,00.html

being a cop means enforcing laws you may not agree with (personally i am against most drug laws for instance, and i'm against various provisions of the VAWA that strip people of their right to bear arms, etc.) and enforcing the rule of law. it also means that you don't get special treatment because of your religion's dress code.

i really hope we do not go the way of multi-culti england and canada in this regards
6.14.2007 12:20am
Waldensian (mail):

Well, there is always Demi Moore.

Curses Bruce, you totally beat me to that!!!

Uniform uniforms matter. Just last night, two very agitated police officers knocked on my door at about midnight. They thought my abode was the location that had prompted a call about a "serious disturbance." Turns out they just had the wrong address (that's my story and I'm sticking with it). Anyway, my neighborhood isn't so safe -- there was an armed robbery a few months ago in my front yard -- and I was very, very glad that I could tell, prior to opening my door, that the people pounding on it were at least dressed like the police.

If I had looked through my door's peephole and seen an armed woman in a khimar? Who knows, anything could have happened.
6.14.2007 12:22am
Waldensian (mail):

Let her wear a baklava, approved of by both the police, and many Muslim organizations.

I have never seen a cop or a Muslim or even a Muslim cop wear a Greek pastry.
6.14.2007 12:24am
wb (mail):
What's wrong with a honey drenched cop?
6.14.2007 12:32am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I tried to eat a balaklava once. Not enough honey.
6.14.2007 12:34am
JB:
Elliot123: The Qur'an has a lot more specific commandments in it than the New Testament, and Hadith add a whole lot more. Muslims can come up with justification by religious texts for a lot more restrictions than Christians. The most apt analogy is if an Orthodox Jewish cop was pulling strange commandments from Leviticus and requesting exceptions be made for him on that basis.

Rarely does a Muslim make up religious obligations out of nothing--all the various forms of head-covering are locally traditional responses to the same general Qur'anic command, or responses showing a different degree of piety.
6.14.2007 12:38am
Gregory Morris (mail) (www):
Waldensian: actually, baklava is Turkish in origin... Although, as a Greek, I'd prefer to claim that particular delight for my country. We certainly eat enough of it.

I'm going to have to side with the "a uniform is a uniform" crowd. Imagine if we extended this type of treatment to anyone of any religion! There are too many clothing-oriented "rules", that generally aren't even rules, just tradition or culture. In this country, cops dress like cops. If you are not a cop, dress how you like. If you are a cop, dress like a cop. Cops wear uniforms for the same reason military personnel do... the uniform is designed to identify who you are and to perform well given the physical nature of the job.
6.14.2007 12:57am
Mark Buehner (mail):
If Rudolph on the lawn of City hall indicates a religious preference of the state, what exactly do you call the cop pulling you over wearing a giant gold crucifix? If this case was about a Christian, the entire cast of chearleaders would reverse sides instantly.

Anyone wielding the authority of the state has no business wearing anything that can be construed as political, religious, or idealogical (outside of areas they are sworn to uphold as part of their office). Thats THE POINT of a uniform.
6.14.2007 1:07am
JerryW (mail):

the condition is called folliculitis iirc.


Actual medical condition is "pseudofolliculitis barbae". Occurs in individuals whose facial hair is thick and curly. Therapy is either grow a beard or very closely shave so no individual hair follicle can grow out, curl back and penetrate the skin. The penetration causes a local infection. If the beard area is kept totally smooth, which requires a lot of work, it would eliminate the folliculitis. Remington made an electric shaver called the "Black Man's shaver" for that pupose. It wasn't very effective. "Magic Shave" was also used.
6.14.2007 1:17am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Shorter Elliot123: society already accommodates what my religion requires, so it's okay; other people's religions don't count.
We don't accept that from Christians because we know it is nonsense.
Ever seen an Amish person?

The interesting things is that Muslim countries themselves do not fall for such nonsense. They prescribe a uniform and enforce it. They don't make exceptions for anything a particular Mulsim thinks is his religious duty. They know what we don't. They know Islam is very flexible regarding any such practices. And they laugh at us for falling for what they all know is a con job.
The interesting thing is that you don't grasp that Muslim countries themselves believe neither in individual liberty generally nor religious liberty in particular.

There is no central authority figure like the Pope in Islam to dictate what the religion means for all adherents; therefore, different people can interpret their religious obligations differently. That does not make it "nonsense," any more than the fact that some Jews wear yarmulkes and some don't makes it "nonsense" for the ones who do to claim that it's a religious requirement.
6.14.2007 1:50am
TruePath (mail) (www):
Elliot123,

The idea that there is some objective fact about what someone's religious book or story requires just doesn't work. Even if you think that your religious obligations are really what god wants you have to agree that most religious obligations are nothing but arbitrary cultural practices mistakenly believed to be what god requires. Obviously it doesn't matter if the interpratational mistake happened in ancient history or last week.

I mean what possible difference could it make it Mohammed himself made up some ridiculous religious requirement or some imam made it up last week? Should it matter to the law that some individual personally reached the conclusion that giving up shaving was important to honor god or if some scholar made it up in the middle ages?

Ultimately the only question you can ask is whether the individual in question honestly believes it is a religious requirement. I mean despite the fact that the mormon religion just made up a bunch of stuff about golden tablets 100 years ago the government shouldn't treat them any differently than religions who made up their beliefs thousands of years ago.

Of course the very requirement that the person really views something as a religious requirement is dangerously imprecise. I mean does this mean that they have to believe god would disapprove if they didn't? What about practices that the religion requires because they remind one to be good but aren't directly cared about by god? What about philosophies that don't really postulate a god?

Ultimately this is yet another reason I find the whole practice of allowing religious excuses repugnant. If I show a strong devotion to a certain practice for totally non-religious reasons why shouldn't I be treated the same?
6.14.2007 2:36am
TruePath (mail) (www):
Interesting question,

What happens when this law about accommodation run into religious beliefs themselves. For instance suppose I have a religious belief that allowing people special religious exceptions is unacceptable.

More plausibly what if my religion prohibits the encouragement of other faiths and I believe letting my employees ignore a generally applicable rule because of their religion violates that rule. Could I prevail on a 1st amendment or more likely a RLUPA challenge to the law requiring I grant them an exception?
6.14.2007 2:41am
Brian G (mail) (www):
Too bad for her. Tell her to quit if she doesn't like it.

Funny how no one gets up in arms when cops are banned from wearing crosses on the job.
6.14.2007 2:50am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Funny how no one gets up in arms when cops are banned from wearing crosses on the job.
Really? Does that happen much?


Ultimately this is yet another reason I find the whole practice of allowing religious excuses repugnant. If I show a strong devotion to a certain practice for totally non-religious reasons why shouldn't I be treated the same?
For the same reason that schools can endorse, say, vegetarianism but not Methodism -- because religion is different than non-religion.
6.14.2007 2:54am
Eugene Volokh (www):
David M. Nieporent: The court's opinion suggests that the Philadelphia Directive bans the wearing of visible crosses, ash on the forehead on Ash Wednesday, and the like.

As to religion being different than nonreligion, the question is whether (and when) it's different enough to justify preferential treatment for one over the other. For instance, the Court interpreted the conscientious objector exemption to the draft -- despite its specific requirement of religious motivation -- to apply to nonreligious conscientious objectors as well as religious ones; it's pretty clear that the Justices did this because they thought that otherwise the result would be unfairly discriminatory.

Likewise, the EEOC and most courts have interpreted Title VII to apply to deeply felt conscientious beliefs (such as conscientious vegetarianism, in one EEOC case, if I recall correctly) as well as to religious beliefs. To be sure, the courts have accepted some religion-only exemptions, though when such exemptions are constitutional (or morally / pragmatically sound) is an unsettled question. But the point is that the question can't be answered just by saying that "religion is different than non-religion," unless we do think that only religious conscientious objectors should be entitled to a draft exemption.
6.14.2007 3:49am
Milhouse (www):
wb: If you're can make the accommodation sought to comply with the ADA then you can make it just as well to comply with Title 7. You'd be hard put to claim that the accommodation is "reasonable" under the ADA, but still imposes "undue hardship" under Title 7.

Remember that even in World War 2, Sikh soldiers were allowed to wear turbans and beards, and exempted from wearing helmets. If exceptions like that were allowed then, there's no reason why they can't be allowed now.

Also, this is a government job, so the Free Exercise clause applies. The general rule is that if a government makes an exception to any rule then it must make the same exception for any First-Amendment-protected activity. That's why NYC must allow people to sell books and pictures on the streets without a license. If they required hawkers' licenses from everyone, they could require them from book sellers too; but because they allow veterans to sell without a license, they have to allow the same privilege to any written matter, and about 8 years ago the courts forced Giuliani to extend the same exception to pictures.

How about the Religious Tests clause? If a regulation has the effect of completely barring people of some religion from a particular job then surely that deserves strict scrutiny, and the government would have to show why an exception couldn't be made.

As for the Amish example, an Amish person would never apply to be a policeman or a soldier in the first place. They're not against being soldiers because they'd have to wear uniforms; they're against wearing uniforms, or anything that even looks like a uniform (e.g. buttons), because soldiers wear them. So the question doesn't arise.
6.14.2007 3:58am
Milhouse (www):
Why religion is different? That's simple: religion is protected by the Free Exercise clause, while vegetarianism and other preferences are not.
6.14.2007 4:09am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Milhouse, the comment I was responding to was not limited to "policemen or soldiers." It was about the very idea of accomodations for religious practices. The original poster seemed to think that only Muslims, and not Christians, ever wanted to dress differently than most people.

EV: as you say, cops are only banned from wearing visible crosses, not all crosses. Although I wouldn't be astonished to hear a claim from someone that his religion requires him to display a cross publicly, that would be an atypical claim.

I realize that under some circumstances, the courts treat sincere non-religious beliefs the same as religious ones, but there are still clear differences. To use the example I cited: no matter how sincere a matter of conscience a non-religious belief like vegetarianism is to someone, I don't think it violates the establishment clause for the government to promote it, does it? Doesn't that suggest that in some ways, religion just isn't the same as non-religion?
6.14.2007 7:27am
wb (mail):
Milhouse,

If Newark had a no exceptions rule, the bearded person would certainly have standing to sue under the ADA. If the suit is successful the city of Newark could be compelled to accommodate the plaintiff. In that case do you claim that the city would be forced to create an exceptions policy. Regarding the Free Exercise clause, the city of Newark may well have been able to argue a compelling interest in not allowing any religious exceptions.
6.14.2007 8:14am
David W:
If the potential officer is not willing to set aside their religion to the extent necessary to comply with a dress code, what proof can they provide that they are will to set aside their religion to the extent necessary to treat fairly a bikini-wearing woman who is washing down a plate of ribs with a glass of beer?
6.14.2007 10:45am
Justin (mail):
Although I can see the decision being affirmed on other grounds, this seems fundamentally mistaken:

"The Directive's detailed standards with no accomodation for religious symbols and attire not only promote the need for uniformity, but also enhance cohesiveness, cooperation, and the esprit de corps of the police force."

I don't think Title VII could be fulfilled in South Park "we discriminate against everyone" style. If an anti-religion bias can satisfy the exception, then the rule is at least partially nullified.
6.14.2007 11:24am
Justin (mail):
"If the potential officer is not willing to set aside their religion to the extent necessary to comply with a dress code, what proof can they provide that they are will to set aside their religion to the extent necessary to treat fairly a bikini-wearing woman who is washing down a plate of ribs with a glass of beer?"

I think we presume they can, and if they can't, they get fired. What proof can a white southerner provide that he will set aside his personal beliefs to treat an african american fairly? Oh wait, what *I* just said was insensitive.....
6.14.2007 11:28am
Fury:
I'm wondering why the safety impact of this has not been addressed, or perhaps it has?

A khimar would seem to me to block side vision and also allow it to be pulled and used to restrain the officer in question. Is the officer in question on patrol on a regular basis?

When I dated a LEO years ago, she had to ponytail her hair, and in a certain way, and she was even encouraged to cut her hair short due to safety concerns of the hair being able to be pulled and possibly used to restrain her.
6.14.2007 11:41am
A.C.:
David W -

In my experience, women who are fond of ribs and beer do not wear bikinis, for the same reason men with those tastes tend to favor baggy swim trunks. But there's more to life than dieting.

I personally don't care if Muslim women serving on the police force cover their hair, but I think those who serve on the street should be limited to coverings that:

1) Fit under a uniform cap;
2) Do not extend below the collar, so as not to hide the rest of the uniform; and
3) Break away when grabbed, without strangling the officer.

This suggests something close-fitting and stretchy that does not go around the neck, perhaps along the lines of a swim cap. (I seem to have bathing suits on the brain today.) A lot of African American Muslims wear something like that. The police might even specify the color so that it goes with the uniform.

Women who feel required to wear more extensive head coverings might still be able to work for the police, but not as ordinary police out on patrols. This would limit their chances for promotion, of course, but that would be their choice.
6.14.2007 11:54am
Houston Lawyer:
Are male law enforcement officers allowed to have shoulder-length hair or wear earrings? I haven't seen any long-haired male cops in uniform.

I'm with the one size fits all uniform crowd.
6.14.2007 12:15pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
When I was in the Army many years ago, the CO category required some showing of a sincere religious belief. It had to be religious and it had to apply to all war.
So I don't see the problem with requiring some showing of sincere religious belief.
As to Elliott, there are reports that the Minneapolis airport cabbies used to handle alcohol-bearing passengers with no problem until a local Muslim group discovered the prohibition someplace.
Is it sincerely held if you think that somebody else who claims to hold it sincerely told you to do it when you'd never heard of it?
It may be possible to nitpick Elliott's argument but that doesn't change the overall issue which is that we are seeing more and more requests for accomodation which inconvenience the rest of us.
6.14.2007 12:22pm
Waldensian (mail):
Gregory Morris:

Waldensian: actually, baklava is Turkish in origin... Although, as a Greek, I'd prefer to claim that particular delight for my country. We certainly eat enough of it.

How dare you sir. How dare you. My next-door-neighbor when I was growing up, a Greek-Cypriot owner of a restaurant, fed me baklava almost daily. And Ohmygod it was awesome. In exchange for this, I agreed to always, always back his claim that it was a Greek invention. As a Greek yourself, you are clearly expected to support this effort as well. At times like this, the truth really isn't the primary consideration. :)
6.14.2007 12:34pm
Elliot123 (mail):
JB,

I agree the various practices Muslims pass off as religious duty are cultural, some based on religion, and some simply justified by religion. (Saudis use religion to justify a ban on women driving.) The fact that these practices differ from one culture to another should make us question if they really are religious duties.

David M. Nieporent,

I very much doubt we would accept the claim from a Christian that wearing hair like Jesus is a religious obligation. We would not accomodate that.

I have indeed seen Amish people, but I have never seen an Amish cop driving a buggy in Philadelphia.

Muslim coutries do not believe in religious freedom, but they do very strongly believe in Islam, and they have a keen understanding of the duties it imposes on the faithful. That's why they laugh at our contortions over the Muslim claims of religious duty.

I agree there is no central authority over all of Islam. I also observe there is no central authority over all of Christianity. I doubt many protestants, Greek orthodox, or Russian orthodox recognize the pope.

TruePath,

I agree most of these religious duties are a function of the individual. The individual can come up with any practice he wants and claim it is a religious duty. My observation is that we accept these claims from religions we are not familiar with, and reject them from religions we are familiar with.
6.14.2007 12:35pm
markm (mail):
All very well, but this then means that observant Muslim women are, in effect, barred from serving as police officers.

Considering the restrictions most Muslim countries place on women I'm surprised that she thinks she can be a police officer in the first place, in a country that expects women cops to drive, handle guns, arrest men, etc., just like the male ones. (Saudi Arabia does have women on the police force, but AFAIK they really function as a sort of auxiliary so male cops don't have to manhandle, search, or even talk to non-related women.) OTOH, if she can be flexible about those restrictions, why can't she be flexible about the head-dress? The department isn't requiring that she go bareheaded, just that she wear the uniform hat. As I understand it, Mohammad only prescribed that women be "modest"; interpreting that as any particular garment is a cultural thing, not Islam.
6.14.2007 1:49pm
Gregory Morris (mail) (www):
Waldensian: Indeed. But the word "Baklava" doesn't even sound Greek. I'm ok with giving the evil Turks one little treat, seeing as how my people invented many other fantastic foods, not to mention philosophy and democracy.

JB: Regarding the central authority in religion... As a Greek Orthodox, I don't recognize the pope as anything other than another Church father. For that matter, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch is only one of the separate-but-equal heads of the Orthodox Church. However, unlike Islam, every Orthodox Christian shares a core set of beliefs, regardless of whether they are Russian, Greek, or American. They may have different religious traditions, but no Orthodox Christian can say they have a "religious duty" that another Orthodox Christian can deny. So there is no "central authority" per se, but there is unity in doctrine. There are similar groups/congresses/etc. that provide unity within the major protestant denominations, as well as cross-denomination organizations. I would argue strongly that this type of unity does not exist within the Muslim world. I would also argue that the unity of the Christian Church is not universal, but far more so than that of Islam.
6.14.2007 1:50pm
davod (mail):
I think the word you are looking for is balaclava.
6.14.2007 2:05pm
Maureen001 (mail):
Mark Buehner: Anyone wielding the authority of the state has no business wearing anything that can be construed as political, religious, or idealogical (outside of areas they are sworn to uphold as part of their office). Thats THE POINT of a uniform.
Dingdingding! We have a winner! Absolutely correct!

I am friends with a few women who are police officers. They do not wear earrings on the job (too risky to get an ear lobe torn), jewelry in general (too risky to lose it, not in compliance with dept. regs), long hair (too risky to supply a perp with a weapon) or even glasses (too risky to have shoved up into your brain). There are insurance regulations that cause PDs to prohibit many of these extraneous attachments as well, because of the risk. That is a whole different concern, however, from the question of religious articles, which I believe was sufficiently addressed by Mr. Buehner above.
6.14.2007 6:05pm
ReaderY:

If the potential officer is not willing to set aside their religion to the extent necessary to comply with a dress code, what proof can they provide that they are will to set aside their religion to the extent necessary to treat fairly a bikini-wearing woman who is washing down a plate of ribs with a glass of beer?


The Religious Test for Public Office Clause is necessary proof: It provides religious people all the proof they need for protection against anti-religious biggotry of precisely this sort.
6.15.2007 12:00am