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When Church and State Collide: Averting Democratic Disaffection in a Post-Smith World

By Claire McCusker


On October 11, 2006, forty-year-old Ginnah Muhammad brought suit against Enterprise Rent-A-Car seeking relief for $2,750 in assessed damages to a rental car, damages she claimed were caused by thieves. Rather than discussing her claims, however, the court focused on her sartorial choices: Muhammad arrived in court wearing the niqab-a modesty veil, worn by some devout Muslim women, covering the head and face with the exception of the eyes. Presiding Judge Paul Paruk gave her the choice of removing the niqab, or having her case dismissed. Paruk\u27s reasoning appeared to be pragmatic: \u22I can\u27t see your face and I can\u27t tell whether you\u27re telling me the truth and I can\u27t see certain things about your demeanor and temperament that I need to see in a court of law.\u22 Muhammad parried, requesting that her case be heard in front of a female judge before whom she would feel comfortable removing her veil. When Paruk rejected this option as impossible, Muhammad chose to have her case dismissed rather than remove her veil, stating, \u22I wish to respect my religion and so I will not take off my clothes.\u2

Topics: Law
Publisher: Yale Law School Legal Scholarship Repository
Year: 2015
OAI identifier: oai:digitalcommons.law.yale.edu:ylpr-1544
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