FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Rabbi Beryl Zwibel said Broward Sheriff’s Office deputies violated his civil rights twice when they forced him to remove his yarmulke as they booked him into the main jail.
Surveillance shows the moment when a deputy at the jail ordered Zwibel to remove his yarmulke after he was arrested in April for failure to appear in court over a traffic citation. He said he wasn’t aware of it.
“A yarmulke is something that has to be on the head,” Zwibel told the deputy.
“I understand. Unfortunately, in here they are not going to allow you to,” the deputy said after ordering him to place the yarmulke in a bag.
Zwibel was arrested again in October for the same offense and a deputy ordered him to remove his yarmulke again. Zwibel filed a civil rights lawsuit against BSO.
“The problem with this policy is that it does not distinguish something like a baseball cap or something that expresses someone’s sincerely held religious beliefs,” said Attorney Kristen Montgomery, who is representing Zwibel.
As an orthodox Jew, Zwibel must wear a head covering when he eats and prays. BSO forced him not to wear his yarmulke for 12 hours behind bars.
“We want to send a message to the Broward Sheriffs Office that one’s religious faith cannot be tampered with and it must always remain intact,” Montgomery said.
The BSO policy says inmates are allowed to wear approved liturgical apparel in their cell, dayroom, and to and from religious services. Montgomery said the surveillance video shows otherwise.
“BSO is violating not only the fundamental rights of my client but very likely every orthodox Jewish male who is being processed at the Broward County Main Jail,” Montgomery said.
BSO doesn’t comment on pending litigation.