Courts, Jail Adjust to Religious Custom

March 8, 2009

Author: David Hench

Source: Portland Press Herald

For many Muslim women, being seen in public with one's head uncovered is a violation of religious tenets as well as an embarrassing display of immodesty.

Head coverings also can be, to varying degrees, important to Jews, Sikhs and people of other faiths.

But that obligation has collided with security concerns and cultural standards prevalent in American courts and prisons, where removing hats and head coverings is a sign of respect and consistent with long-standing security practices.

Now, Maine's court system and the Cumberland County Jail will no longer require defendants, inmates and visitors to remove head coverings that are required by religious custom.

"What we were looking at was not just the question of hats, but apparel that is directly related to religious beliefs," said Chief Justice Leigh Saufley, the state's highest court official.