Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Off with her head covering!

I hereby provide a link to an article from the ABA Journal about a recent Michigan Supreme Court ruling that gives judges the power to require witnesses to remove head or facial coverings in their courtrooms. Sounds simple enough, you say? Well, as with many things, this controversy started because of an illogical and unfair request masquerading as "religious freedom."

The ACLU, with whom I have been known to agree more often than not but not this time, wanted the aforementioned Michigan Rule of Evidence giving judges that power to contain an exception for religious dress. Why? This all started when a Muslim woman brought a small claims lawsuit, refused to remove her religious veil so the judge could see her face, and then had her lawsuit dismissed.

I took Religion and the Constitution for about three weeks this last semester of law school before I had to drop it for life schedule reasons. Those were three of the most interesting weeks of my life. It helped that the professor is a genius who doesn't take shit from whiny law students (of which there are many), but the material itself is always fascinating. People asserting their so-called Constitutional rights to freedom of religion are some of the most logically flawed people on Earth -- and I have serious doubts as to whether any of them have read our Founding Fathers' document, let alone understood it.

The plain and simple fact is that often -- as is the case here -- your religious beliefs are irrelevant. I don't care if they are protected, marginalized, nearly universal, offensive, or what. They are just irrelevant. The judge needs to see your face, s/he makes a rule about attire in the courtroom, you BRING A LAWSUIT availing yourself of said courtroom -- well, guess what? Take off your stupid veil.

Yes, I called it a stupid veil. It is stupid. It is also not a holy, divine, required thing, despite what some people will tell you. The Muslim veil, in particular, is totally misunderstood in the West, but those who've read my blog for a while know that I am fascinated by head coverings in all religions. Jewish, Catholic, Sikh, Mormon ... there are so many religions that have this weird fetish with covering (or shaving) the head, and I can never get any sort of an answer as to why. I mean, I can never get any sort of an answer that actually answers the question when I ask why. I sigh, realizing yet again that religious people tend to not be terribly concerned with logic when they answer questions; it's such a shame. Why not have a logical discussion about covering the head when you go to Mass, or go into the temple? Is there something wrong with having a logical discussion about it? We can analyze all kinds of things in this society: sports, news events, consumer behavior, traffic violations. But if I analyze a religious tradition it's infringing on some "right" you have to your belief? I don't think so!

Furthermore, let us not let the word "veil" obscure the fact that this woman's covering hid not just her scalp and hair, but her face.

Rules exist in society because that is how we have and maintain a society in the first place. I have no patience for people who insist upon religious exceptions to the rules. Screw that. If it's OK for you to have an exception, then everyone should get an exception and we should get rid of the rule. In this case, Michigan is not getting rid of the rule, and you have to take off your veil if you want to testify in court. Just as I have to take off my baseball cap or ski mask. Hurrah!

I am so proud of the Michigan Supreme Court, and I roll my eyes at the two dissenters.

No comments: