JUDGE: POLICE CAN BAN RELIGIOUS MUSLIM GARB
A Philadelphia police officer has no right to wear a head covering as required by her Muslim faith when she is in uniform, a federal judge ruled yesterday.
The Police Department's uniform code "has a compelling public purpose," Judge Harvey Bartle III wrote in deciding against Kimberlie Webb, an officer since 1995.
The uniform code "recognizes that the Police Department, to be effective, must subordinate individuality to its paramount group mission of protecting the lives and property of the people living, working and visiting the city of Philadelphia," Bartle wrote.
Furthermore, the department's uniform code, known as Directive 78, maintains "religious neutrality," the judge said.
The ruling countered a finding by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2003 that the department had violated Webb's rights in barring her from wearing a hijab, also known as a khimar, over the top and back of her head.
It was not immediately known whether Webb, 44, would appeal. Her attorney, Lance D. James, did not respond to a message seeking comment.
In his ruling, Bartle cited a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit that determined Pennsylvania's Garb Statute did not violate the rights of a Philadelphia public-school teacher in barring her from wearing a Muslim head covering.