Hastings Women’s Law Journal


Rohen Peterson


This Note focuses on the intersection of religious freedom and the need for public safety at airport security checkpoints. The main text of Islam, the Qur'an, instructs women to express their faith through modesty. This religiously prescribed practice gives rise to an important privacy interest for Muslim women, protected by the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause. Faced with a growing public concern about airport security, the Transportation Security Administration has chosen to expand the use fullbody scanners at airport security checkpoints. The state has established a strong interest in the use of such devices in order to maintain public safety. Full-body scanners violate the First Amendment privacy interests of Muslim women. Although requiring a scan by these devices contravenes current policy, management problems may cause Transportation Security Administration officers to require a Muslim woman to undergo a full-body scan. In such an event, courts must balance the state's interest in public safety and a Muslim woman's privacy interest under the First Amendment. This Note argues that in the case of full-body scanners, the courts should find the First Amendment privacy interest prevails over the state's interest.