In May, the California State Senate unanimously backed legislation that promises to protect the civil liberties of the state’s incarcerated population by granting new and uniform religious protection to ensure those in jails and prisons have the freedom to practice their chosen faiths.
Introduced by California State Senator Dave Cortese on February 6, SB 309 aims to create “clear guideline on religious clothing, headwear, and grooming,” according to the senator’s website.
The bill would “ensure that Muslims, Sikhs, Jews and other religious minorities should preserve their right to religious dress and practice without harm or disruption.”
The website also referred to studies which show that allowing inmates or detainees to maintain their religious practices not only “reduces violence and other negative behaviors in correctional facilities,” but also lowers recidivism.
Although the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has existing policies guaranteeing the right to wear certain religious garb, the rules are limited to state-run prisons. Other state jails and detention centers have their own policies. Cortese’s proposal would create a codified practice for all state and local correctional facilities.
“When a person enters into custody and they are stripped of their religious clothing, they are also stripped of their identity,” said California Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Gómez Reyes. “No one should be forced to fight for their faith.”
The bill was sponsored by the California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
Nazeehah Khan, Policy and Government Affairs Manager of the California chapter of CAIR, cited instances in which the organization represented incarcerated Muslim women in the state who were prevented from wearing the hijab.
Those cases, Khan explained, led detention facilities in Orange County, Long Beach and Santa Clara to change their policies surrounding religious clothing.
However, “the underlying issue of nonuniform policies addressing religious attire exists throughout the majority of the state,” Khan said. “At the heart of ensuring civil rights is recognizing a person’s humanity. Whether you are Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Sikh, or a member of any other faith, the ability to practice your faith is essential to the rehabilitation process.”
From its beginnings, the Church of Scientology has recognized that freedom of religion is a fundamental human right. In a world where conflicts are often traceable to intolerance of others’ religious beliefs and practices, the Church has, for more than 50 years, made the preservation of religious liberty an overriding concern.
The Church publishes this blog to help create a better understanding of the freedom of religion and belief and provide news on religious freedom and issues affecting this freedom around the world.