Rule Bans Veiled Women From Testifying In Michigan Courts

May 1, 2009

Author: Ben Schmitt

Source: Detroit Free Press

The American Civil Liberties Union and a group of domestic-violence and religious organizations asked the Michigan Supreme Court yesterday to change a proposed rule that would allow judges to bar Muslim women wearing veils from testifying in court.

A hearing on the matter is scheduled for May 12.

"Judges should not deny anyone access to justice because of his or her religion," said Michael Steinberg, legal director for the ACLU of Michigan.

The proposed rule allows judges to control the appearance of witnesses and parties testifying in state courts.

Steinberg said the ACLU and other groups asked the Supreme Court to add a sentence to the rule, saying "that no person shall be precluded from testifying on the basis of clothing worn because of a sincerely held belief."

The matter stems from a 2006 small-claims lawsuit in Hamtramck, Mich., when a district judge told Ginnah Muhammad that she couldn't testify unless she removed her veil.