Atlanta, Ga, December 17, 2008…The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today called upon Douglasville, Georgia municipal court Judge Keith Rollins to reconsider his ruling that sent a Muslim woman to jail for refusing to remove her head scarf before entering the courtroom.
News reports indicate that Lisa Valentine was arrested for violating a policy that prohibits headgear in court. Ms. Valentine was sentenced to 10 days in jail by Judge Rollins.
"The Douglasville policy unfairly forces Ms. Valentine and others in a similar situation to choose between exercising their faith and exercising their right to participate in the court system," said Bill Nigut, ADL Southeast Regional Director. "The policy has a negative impact on anyone whose individual faith requires the wearing of a head covering, including observant Jews, Muslims and Sikhs."
The Douglasville incident follows a similar incident last year in a Valdosta court. There, a woman who arrived at the courthouse to challenge a traffic ticket was refused admittance to the courthouse because she would not remove her head scarf.
"We are mindful of the fact that there is a difference between a head covering and a face veil," Nigut pointed out. "Courts are still weighing the issue of whether a veil may interfere with the identification of suspects or witnesses or the right of a defendant to face his accuser. But a head scarf typically presents no such problems."
ADL also sent a letter to Georgia State Supreme Court Chief Justice Leah Sears requesting that the Court create guidelines that will allow accommodation in courtrooms of the religious practices of all litigants, witnesses and other members of the public.
"In light of Georgia's growing religious diversity, we urge the court system to thoroughly examine this issue and develop uniform standards on religious accommodation in the courtroom," the letter reads in part.