The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is seeking clarification on a new administrative rule adopted by Michigan’s Supreme Court that could allow judges to demand that witnesses remove religious head coverings while testifying.
The Washington-based group says that the removal of religiously-mandated attire such as a hijab would violate the constitutional right to religious freedom. In a press release, Dawud Walid of Michigan’s CAIR chapter said, “Michigan residents of all faiths need clarification as to whether they will be forced to remove their religious attire in order to appear in a state court.” The group says that the rule could be used against people of other faiths who wear head coverings.
The rule was adopted by the Supreme Court via a 5-2 decision. The two opposing judges said that there should be a clear written exception fore religious attire.
As it currently stands, the rule reads:
“The court shall exercise reasonable control over the appearance of parties and witnesses so as to (1) ensure that the demeanor of such persons may be observed and assessed by the fact-finder, and (2) to ensure the accurate identification of such persons.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan has furthered argued against the rule saying that numerous studies have shown that jurors have an easier time assessing the credibility of a witness testimony by simply listening to a witness rather than watching their facial expressions.