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OC settlement requires deputies to accommodate religious attire in custody

A woman adjusts her hijab, a head covering worn by observant Muslim women and girls.
A woman adjusts her hijab, a head covering worn by observant Muslim women and girls.
M. Spencer Green/AP

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A legal settlement will prevent Orange County sheriff’s deputies from ordering people in custody who wear religious attire to remove it in ways that violate their beliefs.

The settlement follows a 2007 lawsuit by Souhair Khatib. She  said officers forced her to remove her hijab - a religious headscarf many observant Muslim women wear  - while she was in custody. Khatib took legal action against Orange County with help from the American Civil Liberties Union after an 2006 incident in a county holding facility.

In her complaint, Khatib said she landed in custody temporarily after she sought an extension of a community service sentence. Male and female officers ordered her to take off the hijab. She refused, saying that removing it in front of male strangers would violate her religious beliefs. She only complied after an officer told her that if she didn’t, a male officer would remove it for her.

An appeals court ruled last year that inmates in court holding facilities are covered by a 2000 law that protects prisoners’ religious rights. The ACLU of Southern California, which reached the agreement with the county out of court, says officers will give Muslim women in custody temporary headscarves to wear.

The agreement also extends to male detainees, such as Sikhs, whose religions require them to wear certain garments.