A metro Atlanta woman is claiming employees of the Fayette County Jail discriminated against her based on her religious beliefs. She says more than 24 hours in the cell was like hell on Earth.
It could happen to plenty of people. Emily Ray had a failure to appear arrest warrant she didn't know about because the notice was sent to an old address. She was running late to do some volunteer work and admits to speeding, but says she doesn't deserve what happened to her.
On a fall day, she wasn't wearing long sleeves because she's cold.
"I stay covered from my neck to my ankles because I'm an Orthodox Messianic Jew," says Ray.
The Coweta County woman follows her Bible and its religious restrictions.
"I don't eat any pork, I don't ant any shellfish, I don't eat anything that doesn't have any feet below its knees," says Ray.
In October, late to do volunteer work, she was speeding. A police officer stopped her and the arrest warrant she didn't know about came up and he hauled her off to the lockup.
"While I was at the Fayette County Jail, I was denied kosher food," says Ray. "A trustee, another person who was an inmate, offered me a pork bologna sandwich....When I asked to speak to the Sergeant in charge about that, that I needed to eat, that I hadn't eaten in many hours and that I needed clean water and hadn't had clean water in many hours, he claimed sovereign immunity for my treatment and one of his orderlys gave me the reason why I couldn't have that as, 'Because this isn't Law and Order bitch,' is what he said."
"What it says is the state can't be sued for damages, money damages for certain acts that violate your Constitutional rights," says civil rights attorney Shawn McCullers. "Even religious. In this particular case, there would be a potential grievance if she'd been incarcerated long enough to accrue a health or medical condition based on her not being able to eat."
"I think that the beginnings of times that should terrify everyone happen when someone peacefully requests that their religious rights be respected and when authorities unilaterally say, not only are we not going to respect your rights, we don't have to because we have sovereign immunity and we can do what we want," says Ray.
Because of Ray's religious beliefs of having to be covered, she's also upset the jail denied her a long sleeve uniform.
We're still waiting on the Fayette County Jail director to get back with us about the issue.
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