Tommy DeForest, Alabama
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Tommy DeForest was a Sikh high school student in Alabama who wanted to wear a patka, the headcovering required by the Sikh faith. Good Hope High School barred him from attending school with his patka, citing its “no hats” policy. Becket sent a letter to the superintendent and argued that forcing a student to chose between his religious convictions and receiving a public education violates the right to free exercise of religion. We pointed to the Alabama Religious Freedom Amendment to Alabama’s constitution, which says that the “[g]overnment shall not burden a person’s freedom of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.” While the reasoning behind a no hats policy in public schools may be fine, it should not restrict the religious freedom of students, be they Jewish, Sikh, or something else. The school backed down, and Tommy was able to return to school and continue practicing his faith.