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(RNS) Georgia court officials unanimously voted on Monday (July 27) to allow individuals to wear religious head coverings in state courtrooms.
The Georgia Judicial Council adopted the policy after a Muslim woman was arrested last year for refusing to remove her headscarf in a courthouse in Douglasville, Ga.
“We felt that it was necessary for there to be a unified policy to clarify that persons of faith who want to wear religious head coverings should be allowed access,” said Azadeh Shahshahani, who oversees national security and immigrant’s rights issues for the ACLU of Georgia.
The ACLU of Georgia drafted the policy after a Douglasville Municipal Court judge found Lisa Valentine in contempt of court for refusing to remove her headscarf last December. Valentine was ordered to serve 10 days in jail even after she conveyed to court officials that wearing the headscarf is an expression of faith.
“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,” Valentine said in a statement.
Douglasville police said in a statement that Valentine was found in contempt for fighting with an officer, not for wearing a scarf. When it was determined that she did not fight, the city said she was released in less than a day.
The Anti-Defamation League and the Georgia Association of Muslim Lawyers submitted letters in support of the policy, which also allows a person to request a private inspection if a security officer wants to conduct a search.
“We hope that this is a step in the right direction in ensuring that all members of faith are accorded the full extent and guarantees of religious freedom under the U.S. Constitution,” Shahshahani said.
By Lindsay Perna
Religion News Service
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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