A devout Christian woman has said Alabama county officials violated her rights by forcing her to remove her headscarf for her driver’s license photo when she considers it part of her religious practice to cover her hair.
Yvonne Allen of Tuskegee, Ala. said the Lee County clerk told her only Muslim women are allowed to cover their hair.
“I was devastated when they forced me to remove my headscarf to take my driver license photo,” Allen said in a statement. “Revealing my hair to others is disobedient to God. I should have the same right as people of other faiths to be accommodated for my religious beliefs.”
The lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in Montgomery federal court, names as plaintiffs Becky Frayer, the chief clerk of the Lee County Probate Judge’s office, and Probate Judge Bill English, her supervisor.
The lawsuit says that the officials violated Allen’s rights under the Alabama constitution and the U.S. Constitution’s establishment clause and free exercise clauses of the First Amendment.
Allen says that the practice of covering her hair is rooted in her reading of St. Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians Chapter 11 regarding women and head coverings.
“I have followed this command every day since and believe that removing my headscarf in public is extremely shameful and dishonors God,” she said.
In an April 25 statement at the ACLU website, Allen said she was treated in a way that was “humiliating and demeaning.”
The Alabama Department of Motor Vehicles clerk spoke to her “in a smug and condescending tone” and said that Christian women don’t cover their hair, she charged.
Alabama law enforcement rules allow a headscarf to be worn as long as it does not cover the face, the Associated Press reports.
Susan Watson, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama, said the government “cannot discriminate between faiths in granting religious accommodations,” the Alabama news site AL.com reports.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and a court order allowing Allen to re-take her photo with her head covered.
The ACLU, the legal group representing Allen, has in the past been a frequent opponent of religious freedom. It has filed lawsuits that seek to force Catholic hospitals to perform abortions and sterilizations at their facilities.
It is also a player in a well-funded campaign against religious exemptions which it considers discriminatory.
Grant listings show that the Arcus Foundation, founded by billionaire heir Jon Stryker, has given the ACLU’s foundation $600,000 for its campaign to “end the use of religion to discriminate” and another $100,000 to support “communications strategies to convince conservative Americans that religious exemptions are ‘un-American’.”