Religious Law

Man with Voodoo beads is ordered detained for refusing to remove them in court

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A defendant appearing before a North Carolina judge was detained for nearly three hours last week when he refused to remove his Voodoo beads or tuck them into his shirt during a court appearance.

The defendant, Abu-Bakr Abdur Rahman of Fayetteville, says he believes Judge Talmage Baggett of Cumberland County discriminated against him on the basis of religion, the Fayetteville Observer reports in stories here and here.

Rahman was detained for two hours and 45 minutes in the court’s prisoner box. He was appearing before the judge last week on a misdemeanor charge of communicating a threat. Here is part of their exchange from the transcript:

BAGGETT: You’re going to have to do better than this. I can’t have that in the courtroom.

RAHMAN: First Amendment—

BAGGETT: I don’t allow other people to get away with it. I’m not going to allow you to have a mess around your neck like that.

RAHMAN: The First Amendment guarantees me the right to free religion. If you lock up my religion—

BAGGETT: Sir, get outside, and either put it in or leave. That is your choice. Or come to the prisoners box. Now which would you rather do?

RAHMAN: You’re discriminating against my religion.

BAGGETT: I don’t know of any religion that requires you to wear this kind of stuff around your neck. I’m not familiar with your religion. I respect anybody’s religion, but get it off. … I’ll let you practice your religion right over here in the box.”

When Rahman returned to court on Thursday to face another charge—obtaining property by false pretenses—Baggett ordered Rahman to hide his beads or to leave his courtroom. “I’m not going to put up with Voodoo in this courtroom. This is a problem,” Baggett said on Thursday. “You may have a religion. But sir, this is a security problem.”

The judge then transferred the case to a different judge, who didn’t object to the beads.

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