ACLU: Christian woman forced to remove headscarf for license

Yvonne Allen of Tuskegee (CREDIT: ACLU)

MONTGOMERY, AL (AP) — A Christian woman in Alabama was forced to remove her headscarf for a driver’s license photo after being told only Muslim women could wear them in photos, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama on her behalf.

Yvonne Allen of Tuskegee said in the lawsuit that when she went to renew her license in December, she was directed to remove the headscarf she wears in accordance with her religious beliefs. She said the clerk insisted that only Muslim women were allowed to cover their hair in the photos.

“I was devastated when they forced me to remove my headscarf to take my driver’s license photo,” Allen said in a statement released by the ACLU. “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 in federal court named Lee County Probate Judge Bill English and clerk Becky Frayer as defendants. Efforts to reach English by telephone were unsuccessful and a message was not immediately returned seeking comment.

The lawsuit asks that Allen be allowed to take a new license photograph with her head covered.

“The government cannot discriminate between faiths in granting religious accommodations,” said Susan Watson, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama.

The lawsuit contends that Allen’s religious rights were violated and the state was selectively enforcing accommodations for religious beliefs.

The state in 2004 — responding to complaints from Muslims and Sikhs— did away with a policy that prohibited the wearing of head scarves and turbans in driver’s license photos. The new policy said that head coverings and headgear are acceptable for religious beliefs and medical conditions, but for no other reason. The person’s face must be completely visible in the photo.

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