2016-07-27
(RNS) -- A female Muslim firefighter in Maryland has won the right to wear a religious head scarf while at work, and state officials in Idaho have agreed to allow a Christian woman to wear a head scarf in her driver's license photo. Stacy Tobing, a seven-year veteran of the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service who converted to Islam last year, began wearing a traditional "hijab" at work in June, but was placed on administrative leave while fire department officials evaluated department policy on the issue, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "We were worried about what would happen in the event of a fire or if we were to run into an unruly patient who might want to reach out and grab her," Fire Administrator Gordon Aoyagi told the Washington Post. But according to that newspaper, "Tobing showed her supervisors a special head scarf held together with Velcro that rips away if pulled. She also proved she could take off the scarf and don protective headwear in seconds if forced to battle a fire." Under the agreement reached July 12, Tobing can wear a dark blue or white head scarf while on duty, and when she needs to wear protective clothing she can replace the head scarf with a fireproof hood and helmet. In a similar case, the Idaho Department of Motor Vehicles has decided to permit a Christian woman to wear a religious head scarf in her driver's license photograph. Janet Schmid had been told she could not be photographed wearing the
head covering because doing so would violate a state mandate that does not allow driver's license photographs in which the face is "disguised or otherwise concealed," according to the Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit group that focuses on defending constitutional and human rights. After the institute's attorneys met with Idaho Transportation Department officials, Schmid received a waiver recognizing her religious reasons for wearing the head covering. Meanwhile, the American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress and the Anti-Defamation League have withdrawn their support from a lawsuit filed by a Muslim woman who claimed she was asked to refrain from wearing her head scarf at work. The groups removed their support when the Council on American-Islamic Relations joined to file a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Zeinab Ali. Ali wants the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn an appellate court's decision to dismiss her employment discrimination claim against Alamo Rent-A-Car, according to the American Jewish Committee. The committee called the American-Islamic council an "extremist Muslim group that condones terrorism." Joining with the council "would be to legitimize an organization that condones terrorism," something the three organizations "cannot do," the committee said.
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