A Muslim woman who works as a Philadelphia police officer has lost her court battle to wear a religious head scarf on the job now that the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that forcing the department to accommodate her would compromise the city's interest in maintaining "religious neutrality" in its police force.
In Webb v. City of Philadelphia, a unanimous three-judge panel upheld a lower court's decision that said the police department's blanket policy forbidding officers from wearing any religious garb did not violate plaintiff Kimberlie Webb's religious-freedom rights.
Writing for the court, Chief U.S. Circuit Judge Anthony J. Scirica said he agreed with the city's argument that, without strict enforcement of its dress code, "the essential values of impartiality, religious neutrality, uniformity, and the subordination of personal preference would be severely damaged to the detriment of the proper functioning of the police department."
As a result, Scirica said, forcing the city to accommodate Webb by allowing her to violate the dress code would impose an "undue hardship" on the city.