The ACLU of Georgia Applauds Adoption by the Georgia Judicial Council of Policy Allowing for Wearing of Religious Head Coverings in Courthouses
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Atlanta – The ACLU of Georgia today applauded the adoption by the Georgia Judicial Council, the policy-making body for Georgia courts, of a policy clarifying that religious head coverings can be worn in Georgia courthouses. The policy which balances courts' security concerns with individuals' fundamental right to religious liberty was presented by the ACLU of Georgia to the Supreme Court of Georgia Committee on Access and Fairness in the Courts at their June 12th meeting.
"We are thrilled that the Georgia Judicial Council has decided to adopt this policy, thereby ensuring that no one in Georgia will ever have to choose between their fundamental right to free expression of religion and their right to gain access to a courthouse," said Azadeh Shahshahani, the ACLU of Georgia National Security/Immigrants' Rights Project Director who attended the June 12th meeting of the Committee on Access and Fairness in the Courts and presented the policy. "This is a step in the direction of ensuring that the guarantee of religious freedom is assured to all Georgia residents, regardless of their faith."
The ACLU of Georgia advocated for the adoption of this policy after learning about troubling reports of incidents at the Douglasville Municipal Court where Muslim women were faced with the choice of removing their headscarves or the denial of access to court. In an incident on December 16, 2009, Lisa Valentine, also known by her Islamic name, Miedah, was arrested when Judge Keith Rollins of the Douglasville Municipal Court found her in contempt of court for refusing to remove her headscarf. Valentine and other Muslim women were refused access to the Douglasville Municipal Court, even after they expressly conveyed to court officials that the wearing of the headscarf is an expression of their faith.
Ms. Valentine and her husband accompanied Shahshahani to the June 12th meeting of the Committee on Access and Fairness in the Courts where Ms. Valentine was provided with an opportunity to speak about the experience she faced at the Douglasville Municipal Courthouse.
"I am very happy to know that no person of faith will ever have to suffer at any Georgia courthouse the type of egregious treatment I suffered because of the expression of my faith," said Ms. Lisa Valentine.
The Anti-Defamation League and the Georgia Association of Muslim Lawyers also submitted letters in support of the policy which has now been adopted by the Georgia Judicial Council.