An update on this story. A uniform is a uniform, and making exceptions defeats the purpose of having one.
“Court: Muslim cop can’t wear head scarf,” from the Philadelphia Daily News, April 8:
A Muslim woman who works as a Philadelphia Police officer Wednesday lost her court fight to be allowed to wear her head scarf while on duty.
The Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that granting Kimberlie Webb an exception to a regulation banning religious symbols while in uniform would impose an “undue hardship” on the city of Philadelphia.
Webb, a Philadelphia cop since 1995, requested permission in February 2003 to wear her head scarf while on duty. She was denied that permission, and filed complaints with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
In August 2003, Webb showed up to work wearing her head scarf. When she refused to remove it, she was sent home. This was repeated on two additional days.
“There is a history of allowing palms in police cars on Palm Sunday,” said Jeffrey Pollock, Webb’s lawyer. “[Washington,] D.C., New York City and Chicago all allow officers to wear religious symbols.
Symbols, not religious garments. There is no equating, say, a scapular or necklace with the utter non-subtlety of a hijab.
“Why can’t the Philadelphia Police make the exception?”
In October 2005, Webb brought a lawsuit against the city, claiming religious and sex discrimination.
The court’s opinion said that “uniform requirements are crucial to the safety of officers (so that the public will be able to identify officers as genuine, based on their uniform appearance).”
Not only that, but as explained here, the hijab endangers the officer in that it could be grabbed in a struggle. Moreover, the uniform is intended to be religiously neutral — logical under the separation of church and state — and representative of the impartiality of the law, and equal protection under it. Superimposing other garments upon a uniform spoils that neutrality, and — again — the purpose of having a uniform.
The appeals court also declined to consider Constitutional issues brought up by Pollock. Those issues were not raised at trial, so the court did not have to consider them, according to the opinion of the three-judge panel.
A lower court already had ruled that the city would suffer undue hardship if it were required to accommodate Webb’s request.
“I respect [the judges], but I’m obviously disappointed,” Pollock said.
Pollock said that no decision has been made about whether to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.