Thursday, June 20, 2019

Fort Carson to Muslim soldier: Seek the report through the Freedom of Information Act

Posted By on Thu, Jun 20, 2019 at 3:54 PM

click to enlarge Cesilia Valdovinos filed a complaint that led to a report, but she must seek it through the Freedom of Information Act, the Army says. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Cesilia Valdovinos filed a complaint that led to a report, but she must seek it through the Freedom of Information Act, the Army says.
A Fort Carson soldier who filed a discrimination complaint about being ordered to remove her hijab in public must file a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain the report from an investigation about the incident.

The post issued the report, which found no wrongdoing on the part of the Army, to the Gazette recently in response to the newspaper's FOIA request, but didn't give a copy to the soldier who was the subject of the investigation, Cesilia Valdovinos. Read about the controversy here.

Asked about that, a Carson spokesperson says via email, "After the investigation is completed the Soldier would need to request a copy through the FOIA process."

This runs contrary to what Valdovinos says she was told by the post's officials. Via email, Valdovinos tells the Independent that when she "repeatedly" requested a copy, Army officials told her it had been "misplaced" and "that it was getting sent to different sections and people in the brigade who 'may' have a copy but no one ever had one."

"No one EVER informed me about having to first file a request through FOIA," she writes. "None of this requirement about having to file a FOIA was ever brought to my attention at ANY time.”

Mikey Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, who has intervened in the Valdovinos case, issued this statement:
Fort Carson’s deliberate failure to enable our MRFF client, Spc. Valdovinos, to receive a copy of the EEO investigation SHE initiated is not merely mild misfeasance and happenstance. It is malignant malfeasance and it is blatantly illegal. It is another undeniable example of the anti-Muslim bias, bullying, harassment, oppression, bigotry and prejudice she has been forced to endure at the hands of her Army leadership at Fort Carson. MRFF looks forward to aiding Spc. Valdovinos in her federal civil rights litigation to bring her, and all others similarly situated, justice for this illicit, targeted, retaliatory punishment.

Fort Carson has previously asserted that Army leaders respect soldiers’ right to practice their faith without fear of prejudice or repercussion, but even obtaining an accommodation, which Valdovinos had done in mid-2018, doesn’t mean they’re not subject to inspection for compliance with Army regulations that specify how a hijab should be worn.

Col. David Zinn, who then served at Carson, also issued a statement saying, "I will ensure our unit continues our tradition of placing a high value on the rights of our Soldiers to observe the tenets of their respective religions or to observe no religion at all.”

Valdovinos vows she'll file a federal lawsuit alleging violation of her constitutional rights.

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