U.S. judge jails Muslim woman over head scarf

U.S. judge jails Muslim woman over head scarf

DOUGLASVILLE, Ga. - A judge ordered a Muslim woman arrested Tuesday for contempt of court for refusing to take off her head scarf at a security checkpoint.

The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations urged federal authorities to investigate the incident as well as others in Georgia.

“I just felt stripped of my civil, my human rights,” Valentine told The Associated Press on Wednesday from her home, after she said she was unexpectedly released once CAIR got involved. Jail officials declined to say why she was freed.

Oh, human rights, huh? :mad:


Whatever the rights and wrongs of the case, what entered my thought was this…what if nuns still wore their full pre-Vatican 2 habits and one was asked to remove her veil? Not all nuns are caucasian…so would this nun feel upset at removing her veil? How many ever got to see the nuns’ hair pre-Vatican 2?

I can’t help it, this is just the thought that entered my head when reading this post.

Not just pre-Vatican II.
When I went to Wal-Mart on “Black Friday” I saw what I thought were three Muslim women shopping together but after I passed them I saw that they were nuns.

Such is the world we live in these days…security is security.

This had nothing to do with security, and everything to do with people abusing their power.

She was hastily released when they realized the possible consequences of their actions.

They need to spend a little time in stir, thinking about it.

No more dhimmitude. Good on that judge!

Good on that judge for what? Humiliating a Muslim woman when there was no need for it?

Ignorance. You have been to Muslim countries, no doubt you have seen real Dhimmis. Allowing a Muslim woman to cover her head is not dhimmitude.

I wonder would a nun be asked to unveil? Or a Jewish man be asked to remove his Kippah? Or a Sikh be told to remove their turban (actually that last one I don’t want to know the answer I feel I already know it)

Sorry, I don’t understand the relevance of this part, could you explain it?

They have metal detectors. If there is a problem, THEN she should be asked to remove the scarf. This was ridiculous to do this to the woman.

As the story was presented on the radio program (NPR) the woman was arrested for contempt because she cussed out the bailiff.

Having read a bit more about this, this was not necessarily a security measure…my earlier objections are withdrawn…but cussing out a bailiff is contempt.

For a little legal analysis check out this blog:

It’s not clear to what extent the expletive might have been punishable as fighting words (was it, for instance, “f*** you” said to the bailiff, or just a generic “f***!” said in exasperation?), or to what extent the judge’s authority to punish even non-fighting-words vulgarity in court would extend outside the courtroom (I’m inclined to say that it wouldn’t be). But in any case, it seems the jail sentence at least in large part stemmed from the refusal to remove the headgear.

As with many religious accommodation questions involving Muslims, this is not a new issue. (I set aside the complicated question of William Penn’s hat, and stick with more modern cases.) Judges have, for instance, applied no-hat rules to demand that parties or witnesses remove yarmulkes, see, e.g., Close-It Enterprises, Inc. v. Weinberger, 64 A.D.2d 686 (N.Y. App. Div. 1978), or their Catholic or Episcopalian priestly garb, People v. Drucker, 418 N.Y.S.2d 744 (N.Y. Crim. Ct. 1979); O’Reilly v. New York Times Co., 692 F.2d 863 (2d Cir. 1982); Ryslik v. Krass, 652 A.2d 767 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 1995). The priest cases didn’t involve headgear, but one can easily imagine similar issues arising as to nuns’ habits. There have been other Muslim cases, as well. See, e.g., In re Palmer, 386 A.2d 1112 (R.I. 1978); State v. Allen, 832 P.2d 1248 (Ore. App. 1992).

Some of the cases involved no-hat rules that courts imposed just a matter of general decorum, and others involved prohibitions on wearing religious garb in front of juries justified by a fear that the religious garb would prejudice or otherwise unduly influence jurors. But in all these cases (except one that involved a priest wearing priestly garb as a lawyer, see La Rocca v. Lane, 37 N.Y.2d 575 (1975), a potentially different sort of question), the courts held that the prohibition shouldn’t be applied when the garb is seen as religiously mandated.

UPDATE: Avi Schick reminds me of an opinion by Judge Easterbrook — a noted moderate conservative judge on the federal court of appeals for the Seventh Circuit — that I blogged about five years ago, and that Schick also wrote about (emphasis added):

Tolerance usually is the best course in a pluralistic nation. Accommodation of religiously inspired conduct is a token of respect for, and a beacon of welcome to, those whose beliefs differ from the majority’s. The best way for the judiciary to receive the public’s respect is to earn that respect by showing a wise appreciation of cultural and religious diversity. Obeisance differs from respect; to demand the former in the name of the latter is self-defeating.

It is difficult for us to see any reason why a Jew may not wear his yarmulke in court, a Sikh his turban, a Muslim woman her chador, or a Moor his fez. Most spectators will continue to doff their caps as a sign of respect for the judiciary; those who keep heads covered as a sign of respect for (or obedience to) a power higher than the state should not be cast out of court or threatened with penalties. Defendants are entitled to trials that others of their faith may freely attend, and spectators of all faiths are entitled to see justice being done.

I think the last part hits the nail on the head.

I missed the NPR story, but here is what the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote:

Valentine said she was accompanying her 19-year-old nephew to address a citation Tuesday morning when she was stopped at the metal detector and told she would not be allowed to enter the courtroom with a head scarf.

Valentine, an insurance underwriter, told the bailiff that she had been in courtrooms before with a scarf on and that removing it would be a religious violation.

Frustrated, she turned to leave and uttered an expletive. She said the bailiff then told her she could take the matter up in front of the judge. She said she was handcuffed and taken into Rollins’ courtroom.

“They were putting me in there like I was some sort of criminal,” she said.

The judge ordered her to serve 10 days in jail, where she was forced to remove her headscarf.


Forcing her to remove her headscarf is a violation of the First Amendment - it serves no security purpose. But as Yerusalyim noted, cussing out the bailiff was wrong on her part, too. I suppose it would matter if her expletive was directed at the bailiff or just a generalized utterance of frustration. But since she was handcuffed and taken before the judge, I assume she cursed the bailiff.

Cursing the bailiff was wrong, but is that enough for contempt of court?

The Bailiff exceeded his authority, and violated the law in telling her to remove the scarf. She erred in saying an expletive. However, the judge seriously erred in arresting her for objecting to the abuse of power.

Clearly, her mysterious release occurred when he cooled off and realized the possible consequences of his actions.

We are not the servants of our officials. They are supposed to be serving us. Even if they don’t like our religious beliefs.


The Bailiff exceeded his authority, and violated the law in telling her to remove the scarf


She erred in saying an expletive


However, the judge seriously erred in arresting her for objecting to the abuse of power.

Still debatable

Since when is cursing the bailiff contempt? Cursing the judge, yes, but cursing bailiff outside the courtroom?

Judges have a lot of power, much of it poorly regulated. To a large degree, we depend on them to exercise it responsibly.

Sometimes, they don’t. This seems to be one of those cases. He seems to have realized it, albeit belatedly. Otherwise she wouldn’t have been mysteriously released, with no explanation.

Cursing around a bailiff is not contempt of court. Plus, she was never in the court room! This seems grossly abusive. Some people just love to throw their weight around.


Forcing her to remove her headscarf is a violation of the First Amendment - it serves no security purpose.

Warren Jeffs want her attorneys phone number.

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