Religious Law

Courtroom Judge Has Power to Ban Muslim Veil, Top Michigan Court Decides


A divided Michigan Supreme Court has approved a much-awaited rule of evidence revision that delineates the power of a courtroom judge to determine witness attire.

Rejecting an American Civil Liberties Union argument that the revised Michigan Rule of Evidence 611 should contain an exception for religious dress, the court voted 5-2 to approve a standard that gives the courtroom judge the power to require witnesses to remove head or facial coverings, reports the Detroit Free Press.

The rule review was sparked by a small claims case in which a Muslim woman was asked in a 2006 hearing to remove her niqab so that the judge could see her face to determine her truthfulness as she was testifying.

Ginnah Muhammad refused to take off the religious veil, and 31st District Judge Paul Paruk dismissed her small claims case against a rental car company as a result. She then filed a federal court suit against the judge, which was later dismissed, according to the newspaper and the Associated Press.

An earlier ABAJournal.com post provides additional details.

Additional coverage:

Detroit News: “State Supreme Court issues rule for veils in courtroom”

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