New York Civil Liberties Union Files Lawsuit Against Coast Guard Over Religious Headgear Policies

March 28, 2006

Source: Newsday

Wire Service: AP,0,5281039.story

On March 28, 2006 the Associated Press reported, "The U.S. Coast Guard is accused in a lawsuit of discriminating by requiring anyone seeking a merchant marine license to submit photographs showing no religious head coverings. The lawsuit, brought Tuesday by the New York Civil Liberties Union in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, says the Coast Guard began enforcing the regulation after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The civil rights group brought the claim on behalf of Khalid Hakim, a devout Muslim who has served in the merchant marine while working for private shipping companies since 1973. Before September 2001, he regularly received licenses after submitting photographs in which he wore his religious hat, called a kufi, the lawsuit said. After Sept. 11, though, the Coast Guard said he would have to remove the headdress to get a license, it added. The lack of a license left him unable to work as a merchant marine, the NYCLU said. Shortly before the lawsuit was brought, the Coast Guard without explanation issued a new license to Hakim, the NYCLU said. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and an order requiring the Coast Guard to change its practices."