Fayetteville, North Carolina, defendant Abu-Bakr Abdur Rahman has had two run-ins this month with local judge Talmage Baggett over Mr. Rahman's Vodun beads. The judge objects to Mr. Rahman's wearing of the beads in court. In early July, Judge Baggett locked Mr. Rahman up for refusing to remove the beads after his honor told him to. Mr. Rahman said the beads represented his religion. Here is part of the transcript of their discussion over the beads (from the ABA Journal).
BAGGETT: You’re going to have to do better than this. I can’t have that in the courtroom.
RAHMAN: First Amendment—
BAGGETT: I don’t allow other people to get away with it. I’m not going to allow you to have a mess around your neck like that.
RAHMAN: The First Amendment guarantees me the right to free religion. If you lock up my religion—
BAGGETT: Sir, get outside, and either put it in or leave. That is your choice. Or come to the prisoners box. Now which would you rather do?
RAHMAN: You’re discriminating against my religion.
BAGGETT: I don’t know of any religion that requires you to wear this kind of stuff around your neck. I’m not familiar with your religion. I respect anybody’s religion, but get it off. … I’ll let you practice your religion right over here in the box.
On July 16, Mr. Rahman returned to court and the two squared off again, the judge again telling the defendant to hide his beads under his shirt or leave the court, and Mr. Rahman refusing. Finally, Judge Baggett assigned the case to a different judge.
Said Mr. Rahman of the judge, "He's abusing his chair and he needs to be out of office. He's abusing it." The judge had no comment.
The judge now in charge of the case, Lou Olivera, has no problem with the beads, or, one would presume, with any other religious symbols worn around the neck or on the person. As UNC professor of government Michael Crowell points out, if a party's dress seems to represent religious beliefs and the court is concerned about it, the court should inquire further. If the dress "is not clearly disruptive, it should be allowed."
Mr. Rahman is reported to be considering legal action. More here from the Fayetteville Observer (online).