Muslim law clerks can be ordered to remove head scarfs in court because ‘complete neutrality’ outweighs religious freedom, German judges rule

Germany’s highest court ruled Thursday that a Muslim law clerk can be prevented from wearing a headscarf during court proceedings.

In its ruling, the Federal Constitutional Court said the judiciary’s obligation to complete neutrality outweighed her freedom of religion rights, the dpa news agency reported.

The Frankfurt-born woman of Moroccan background had sued after she began as a legal clerk in 2017 and was restricted as to what she could do by Hesse state authorities.

She was allowed to wear her headscarf, but while wearing it she was prohibited from following court proceedings from the bench, and instead had to sit among the courtroom observers. She was also unable to lead any courtroom sessions, or take evidence from witnesses.

Other German states such as North Rhine-Westphalia, Baden-Wuerttemberg and Berlin have similar regulations, dpa reported. In other states, there is no guidance, because the issue has never come up or has been dealt with case-by-case.

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