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Jackpot! Muslim Woman in Tennessee (U.S.) Gets $100,000 for Having to Remove Her Hijab for a Mugshot! Holy Shit!




A Wilson County woman has reached a settlement with Rutherford County and members of the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office after she was forced to remove her hijab for a booking photo at the Rutherford County Detention Center in late August.

Sophia Johnston filed the lawsuit in November, claiming that the forced removal of her religious covering for a minor — and since dismissed — criminal booking violated her First Amendment right to practice her religion without interference.

As part of the settlement, the county agreed to update its booking and jail policies to accommodate religious attire, delete Johnston’s booking photos and all video footage in which she was depicted without wearing her hijab, and pay her $100,000.

“This is a historic win for Ms. Johnston and her entire religious community,” said Daniel Horwitz, Johnston’s lead lawyer. “Citizens have the right to practice their religion without unreasonable governmental interference, and we are proud to have vindicated Ms. Johnston’s rights and secured permanent policy changes that will prevent violations like this from recurring. Every government agency in Tennessee should take notice."

The updated booking policy states that “arrestees and citation recipients are not required to remove religious head coverings for booking photos as long as the view of the face and profile are not obstructed by religious attire.”

Additionally, the county’s new detention protocol dictates that, as part of the booking process, persons “wearing religious head coverings must remove the covering and allow the head to be searched,” but that the search should “be conducted outside the presence of members of the opposite sex.”

Johnston spoke with reporters following the announcement of the settlement.

“I'm extremely grateful (for the results),” she said. “It wasn't just for me. It was something that I wanted to make sure I did for you all. … It feels like I'm not just a voice just for myself, (but rather) a voice to all religions to let them know that it's okay to practice religion, to stand up for your rights and hopefully empower others to do the same thing.”

Johnston was originally pulled over for a broken taillight in Mt. Juliet, but was then detained for a 6-year-old misdemeanor charge from Rutherford County for driving on a suspended license.

After being booked in Mt. Juliet — without being forced to remove her hijab — Johnston was transferred to Rutherford County, where she was required to take a second photo in the presence of five men.

When asked to remove her hijab, Johnston said she was unwilling to do so with men around, and begged that she be allowed to wear the covering due to her religious faith, according to the lawsuit.

According to court documents, the intake officer told Johnston that she would remain in jail unless and until she removed her hijab and took her photo.

Johnston, a mother of eight children, “could not afford to be incarcerated indefinitely,” and so “relented under strenuous protest," the lawsuit contends.

After the settlement, Johnston described the fear she felt during the incident.

“I just remember being feeling alone,” she said. “It took me through a lot of changes — a lot of PTSD even afterwards. I just felt like my rights were being violated in the worst way. … I've never done anything wrong in my life. So it was very different for me. And then having gotten to the point where my hijab had to be removed and everything, it was very scary for me.”

Despite the difficulty, Johnston said she felt supported by her community and the changes wrought by the settlement.

“It means a lot,” she said. “It's like being a voice for those who are vulnerable…To me that makes me feel like it was a good (that it happened). It's opened the door for a lot of people to know that you'll be okay.”