Michigan judges can control the appearance of witnesses under a new rule adopted 5-2 by the state Supreme Court in response to a Muslim woman who refused to remove her veil while testifying.
Hamtramck District Judge Paul Paruk told Ginnnah Muhammad he needed to see her face to judge her truthfulness. The 45-year-old from Detroit kept her niqab, or face covering, on during the 2006 hearing. Her case was dismissed as a result.
Muhammad had gone to court to contest a $3,000 charge from a rental car company to repair a vehicle that she said thieves had broken into. She sued the judge, saying her religious and civil rights were violated. Her lawsuit is pending in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Some Muslim leaders interpret the Quran to require that women wear a headscarf, veil or burqa in the presence of a man who is not their husband or close relative. (There is nothing in the Qur’an that requires this)
After Muhammad sued the judge, the Michigan Judges Association and Michigan District Judges Association got behind a statewide court rule giving judges “reasonable” control over the appearance of parties and witnesses to observe their demeanor and ensure they can be accurately identified.
ACLU attorney Jessie Rossman said she is “deeply disappointed” by the high court’s decision. “What we’re hopeful about is that trial court judges will still exercise their discretion and do the right thing and honor witnesses’ constitutionally protected religious freedoms,” Rossman said.
The Detroit area is home to one of the country’s largest Muslim populations, and legal observers have said the veil dispute is a cutting-edge issue that will come up elsewhere in the United States. (Thank God Michigan has set the precedent)
The Council on American-Islamic Relations warned the Michigan rule, if interpreted broadly, could affect Jews, Sikhs, Christians and members of other religions. (HAH! As if any MUSLIM terrorist from CAIR gives a hoot about Jews and Christians!) FOX DETROIT