In Michigan
9:46 am
Wed June 17, 2009

MI Supreme Court says judges can ban veils

LANSING, MI – The Michigan Supreme Court says judges may order women not to wear face-covering veils when appearing in court. The court adopted the rule by a 5-2 vote. And it refused to adopt an exception for clothing that reflects a sincerely held religious belief.

The rule is in response to a controversy that flared after a Hamtramck judge dismissed a Muslim woman's small claims lawsuit because she would not appear without a veil. The judge said he needed to see the woman's face in order to gauge whether she was telling the truth.

Jessie Rossman is an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. She says judges who order Muslim women to remove their veils could still face religious discrimination complaints: "And so, what we are going to be looking for and what we hope trial court judges will do is the right thing, and respect women's constitutionally protected religious freedoms, and maintain their access to the court system."

Rossman says the rule leaves discretion with judges, so they don't have to order women to remove their veils.