You can't leave your hat on

fedoraThere's an interesting story coming out of Atlanta where a judge arrested a Muslim woman for refusing to take off her head scarf at a courthouse security checkpoint. The early stories are pretty straightforward, such as this one from the Associated Press:

A Muslim woman arrested for refusing to take off her head scarf at a courthouse security checkpoint said Wednesday that she felt her human and civil rights were violated. A judge ordered Lisa Valentine, 40, to serve 10 days in jail for contempt of court, said police in Douglasville, a city of about 20,000 people on Atlanta's west suburban outskirts.

Valentine violated a court policy that prohibits people from wearing any headgear in court, police said after they arrested her Tuesday.

Kelley Jackson, a spokeswoman for Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker, said state law doesn't permit or prohibit head scarfs.

"It's at the discretion of the judge and the sheriffs and is up to the security officers in the court house to enforce their decision," she said.

But each story I read, and there are many, leave questions unanswered. The stories discuss civil rights and religious freedom -- but only briefly.

It would be nice to have some of these stories explain how the headcovering rules have been interpreted for other religious adherents. Are Orthodox Jews permitted to wear the kippa? Are Sikhs allowed to wear turbans? What is the basis for the headgear ban?

It might be nice to also have a bit of an explanation for this woman's religious reasons for her headscarf wearing. With so much variation among Muslim women and headcovering, it wouldn't hurt to get a bit more reasoning here. And perhaps some church-state experts could be called to weigh in on the matter.

Here's one helpful paragraph in the AP report:

Last year, a judge in Valdosta in southern Georgia barred a Muslim woman from entering a courtroom because she would not remove her head scarf. There have been similar cases in other states, including Michigan, where a Muslim woman in Detroit filed a federal lawsuit in February 2007 after a judge dismissed her small-claims court case when she refused to remove a head and face veil.

And here's a helpful bit of context from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Many Muslim women cover their heads to comply with Islamic mandates of modesty. The practice has run afoul of policies aimed at maintaining decorum and security in courtrooms and other public places across the country.

Both of the above stories also mention that Valentine uttered an expletive before the bailiff handcuffed her and brought her before the judge.

The first round of stories are just getting the news out. But hopefully subsequent stories can help put this incident in broader context. One reader who mentioned the news coverage of this incident wrote:

If you can find one story that has any perspective between this story and other cases of church/state boundary fights, I'll salt my fedora and chow down.

Let's watch and see how coverage of this story develops.

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