Sunday, December 21, 2008

"...Prohibiting the Free Exercise Thereof"

Many of us who are active in the Separation of Church and State community tend to focus on the first part of the Wall of Separation clause in the First Amendment ("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion") and tend to give short shrift to the second part of that phrase ("or prohibiting the free exercise thereof").

Until something like this happens. It seems that a judge down in Georgia (where else, except maybe Alabama) has jailed a Muslim woman for contempt of court because she refused to take off her hijab, the traditional -- and religiously required -- Muslim headscarf.

And it's not the first time this particular judicial asshole has acted this way. As Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (website), said, "What if you're a Jewish man wearing a skull cap? What if you're a Catholic nun wearing a habit? . . . All would be denied access to this judge's courtroom."


Imagine the outrage from the Religious Right if a judge in an area where there is a large Muslim population -- Detroit, say -- banned any individual from his courtroom who insisted on wearing a crucifix.

This is why we have a First Amendment: To keep totally separate the realms of church and state.