OHIO – A Muslim woman has sued a northeast Ohio county for forcing her to participate in Christian services while serving time in jail, in the second lawsuit by a Muslim against the county for the same reason.
“Those services were decidedly and unambiguously Christian in character,” Sonya Abderrazzaq, said in her lawsuit, as reported by Cleveland.com on Tuesday, April 21.
“The preacher in question — and it was typically, if not always, the same preacher — read from the Bible, including the New Testament, led the inmates in religious hymns with a Christian emphasis and character, preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and worshipped [sic] Jesus Christ as the Son of God.”
According to the 26-year-old-woman, a corrections officer told her that attending the Christian religious services are “mandatory”.
Moreover, the Muslim woman was told that she would be punished by being transferred from a low-security residential area, known as the “trustee pod”, back into the general population.
Abderrazzaq claimed that she faced discrimination while serving her six-month sentence in 2014 for a second drunken driving conviction in Parma Municipal Court.
Asking a compensation of $100,000, the lawsuit has mentioned three defendants including Sheriff Clifford Pinkney.
“We take seriously the First Amendment rights of people to practice First Amendment activities of their choice, or none at all,” said Raymond Vasvari Jr., Abderrazzaq’s attorney.
Abderrazzaq was not the first Muslim women compelled to attend the Christian services.
In December, another Muslim woman filed a similar lawsuit against the Cuyahoga County Jail.
Yet, her allegations were denied by Frank Bova, the former sheriff and the current chief community safety and protection officer.
“We accommodate every faith up there, and no one is forced to go to any service,” Bova said.
“It’s all voluntary.”
On the other hand, Abderrazzaq’s lawyer argued that other people were forced to attend the religious service too.
The practices, he said, “tread very heavily on these two women and everybody else who is compelled to attend.”