Federal judge dismisses suit over order to remove headscarf in court

[JURIST] A judge in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan [official website] on Thursday dismissed [opinion and order, PDF] a lawsuit against a Michigan judge who ordered a Muslim woman to remove her headscarf [JURIST news archive] in court. The suit [complaint, PDF] was filed in August by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) [advocacy website] on behalf of Raneen Albaghdady against Judge William Callahan of the Wayne County Circuit Court. Callahan has a policy against hats in his courtroom, and when he asked Albaghdady to remove her headscarf, or hijab, she did so without objection. Judge Marianne Battani ruled:


This is not a situation where a government actor required removal of a hijab after the wearer asserted her First Amendment rights. There simply is no evidence that Callahan would have required the removal of a head covering if he had known of its religious significance. Although an individual present in the courtroom stated it was a scarf, no one mentioned it was a hijab. No one mentioned that removal would violate Albaghdady's religious beliefs. Plaintiffs lacks standing given the facts and circumstances upon which Albaghdady bases her claims. Because Plaintiffs lack standing, the Court dismisses this action in its entirety.

CAIR is considering filing an appeal [Detroit News report].

In August, the Michigan Supreme Court [official website] issued an order [text, PDF] permitting lower courts to use "reasonable control" over the appearance of those who arrive in court, effectively allowing judges to ban certain religious clothing [JURIST report]. The court amended the Michigan Rules of Evidence [text, PDF], motivated by the 2006 case of Ginnah Muhammad. Muhammad had filed a suit in a Michigan small claims court where she was asked by Judge Paul Paruk to remove her niqab [JURIST news archive], a form of veil, so he could gauge her veracity. Muhammad refused, saying she would not take off her veil in front of a male judge, and her case was dismissed. Muhammad filed a federal lawsuit over the incident that was eventually dismissed [JURIST reports] in 2008. Also in 2008, a Muslim woman in Georgia was arrested and ordered to serve 10 days in jail [JURIST report] for contempt of court after she refused to remove her headscarf, upon entering a security checkpoint in an Atlanta courtroom.

 

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