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 the law clerk can be asked to remove head scarf
  • The Federal Constitutional Court ruling fell in favour of judicial neutrality 
  • The verdict follows similar decisions taken in several other German states

Judges in Germany have told a Muslim law clerk that she can be prevented from wearing a head scarf during court proceedings.

Germany’s highest bench, the Federal Constitutional Court, ruled that the judiciary’s obligation to complete neutrality outweighed her freedom of religion rights.  

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

She was allowed to wear her head scarf, but was prohibited from following court proceedings from the bench while wearing it, and instead had to sit among the courtroom observers. 

Judges in Germany have ruled that Muslim law clerks can be asked to remove their head scarfs, similar to the ones pictured above, or be faced with a restricted role in court proceedings

She was also unable to take evidence from witnesses or lead any courtroom sessions.

Other German states such as North Rhine-Westphalia, Baden-Wuerttemberg and Berlin have similar regulations, dpa new agency reported. 

There is no guidance in other regions because the issue has never come up or has been dealt with case-by-case.  

In 2017, a German judge told a Syrian woman she had to remove her Islamic head scarf in court during a divorce hearing or she would not be able to legally separate.

The judge warned there was no place for religious symbols in the courtroom.

A court in Germany ruled against an attempt by authorities in Hamburg to forbid a 16-year-old schoolgirl from wearing a niqab during lessons

In addition, eight German states currently maintain restrictions on wearing the hijab by female teachers, after a 2015 decision by Germany’s Constitutional Court overturned a blanket ban on teachers wearing hijabs, ruling that it was against religious freedom.

Earlier this month a German court overturned a school’s niqab ban after a 16-year-old girl was told she had to show her face to teachers. 

Hamburg education officials had ordered the girl’s mother to ensure that her daughter did not wear the veil at school, a decision which an administrative court overturned.

Civil servants and police officers have already been banned from wearing the niqab, burka or hijab or any religious symbol, but this has not previously extended to members of the public.  

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