August 16, 2011

CONTACT: Hedy Weinberg, ACLU of Tennessee Executive Director, (615) 320-7142

NASHVILLE - After several months negotiating with the ACLU of Tennessee, the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office today released new policies that include religious protections and will go into effect on Friday, August 19th. Last spring, ACLU-TN notified DCSO that their practice of requiring individuals to remove their religious head coverings when being photographed, booked into a DCSO facility or when entering a courthouse, violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment and also Federal and State law.

“The Davidson County Sheriff’s Department took responsibility and rewrote their policies,” Tricia Herzfeld, ACLU- TN Legal Director said. “We applaud DCSO for recognizing the importance of protecting individuals’ constitutional right to exercise their religious beliefs.”

In March, ACLU-TN was contacted by a Muslim woman who was forced to remove her hijab, a religious headscarf, for a booking photo after being cited for a minor traffic-related charge. ACLU-TN immediately intervened and the photo was removed and replaced with a photo of the woman wearing her hijab. Then In April, ACLU-TN learned about a Muslim man who was forced to remove his head covering, known as a kufi, in order to enter a Metro Courthouse.

DCSO responded to ACLU-TN’s concerns and the policies on booking photos for arrests and citations, security for all courthouses, and religious head coverings in jails were revised to include exemptions for religious head coverings.

The new DCSO policy is available online here.

The new juvenile courthouse policy is available online here.