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Muslim headscarves to be allowed in Georgia courtrooms

No one would ask a nun to remove her scarf, says the judge while granting the permission

Saturday, July 25, 2009 12:15:06 PM, News Desk

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Those who walk into any Georgia courtroom will be allowed to wear head coverings, such as scarf worn by Muslim women. The new policy was adopted Wednesday at a meeting of the Judicial Council of Georgia, the policy-making body for Georgia courts, says the reports that appeared in US media today.


The policy is designed to balance a court’s legitimate security concerns with a person’s right to practice his or her faith in a public place. Under the new policy, if a security officer wanted to conduct a search, the person would have the option of having the inspection performed in a private area by an officer of the same gender, reports quoting the press release issued yesterday.


According to the report, the measure stems from the December 2008 arrest of Lisa Valentine after she refused to remove her hijab, the head scarf worn by Muslim women. She said to do so would violate her faith. But Judge Keith Rollins of the Douglasville Municipal Court found her in contempt of court and ordered her to serve 10 days in jail.


The incident prompted a formal complaint from the U.S. Department of Justice. The Anti-Defamation League, Council on American-Islamic Relations and American Civil Liberties Union also lodged complaints.


On June 12th, Ms. Valentine testified before the Supreme Court of Georgia Committee on Access and Fairness in the Courts.


“If this had been a nun, no one would have required her to remove her habit,” said Chief Justice Carol Hunstein, who chairs the Judicial Council. “I think this is a good rule, and I think it’s clear.”


“Head coverings are prohibited from the courtroom except in cases where the covering is worn for medical or religious reasons. To the extent security requires a search of a person wearing a head covering for medical or religious reasons, the individual has the option of having the inspection performed by a same-sex officer in a private area. The individual is allowed to put his or her own head, covering on back after the inspection is complete”, the website reported quoting specifically from the adopted policy.





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