Judge will allow Muslim man to wear head covering in court

A Henry County state judge has reversed his own decision and will allow a Muslim man to wear his head covering into the courtroom.

“The Court finds through its own research that there is a basis in the Quran for both men and women to cover their heads as a religious observance,"  Judge James T. Chafin wrote in an order obtained by the AJC. "Accordingly, the Court will permit the defendant to wear his hat in the courtroom as a valid religious observance.”

Chafin had blocked Troy “Tariq” Montgomery, of DeKalb County, from entering the courtroom three separate times to defend a speeding charge, attorney Mawuli Mel Davis told the AJC. Montgomery, 46, wears a kufi, a tight-fitting cap, as a symbol of humility at all times, Davis said.

But Chafin previously requested to see proof, such as in a religious doctrine, that Montgomery must wear the kufi, which violated Montgomery's rights, Davis said.

A policy enacted in 2009 already allows religious head coverings to be worn in courtrooms.

In December 2008, Lisa Valentine was arrested in Douglas County for refusing to remove her headdress, called a hijab. The ACLU filed a lawsuit in Valentine's behalf, and in July 2009, the Georgia Judicial Council adopted a policy clarifying that religious head coverings can be worn in Georgia courthouses.

“I was surprised when I got the news and hopeful that no other Muslims will have to face these objections of wearing their Islamic attire in court," Montgomery said in a statement issued through his attorney. "I also want to make it clear that I do not just wear a ‘hat' as the judge referred to in his order, but a kufi, which is a religious head covering worn for the purpose of identifying my religious affiliation.”

Montgomery is now scheduled to appear in court May 16.