GERMANY COURT UPHOLDS BAN ON HEADSCARF FOR LEGAL TRAINEES


28/02/2020




İrem UZUN -TDO- The German state of Hesse bans headscarves from being worn by lawyers and trainee lawyers in courtrooms. A woman had hoped to prove this was unconstitutional; but the German top court judges thought otherwise. Due to the ideological and religious neutrality of the state, the legislator can prohibit the wearing of headscarves, ruled Germany's Constitutional Court. "The obligation of the state to be neutral cannot be anything else that the obligation of its officials to also be neutral because the state can only be enacted through people," it concluded.

A German-Moroccan law student had hoped to prove that the law in Hesse, which forbids headscarves during training in the courtroom, was unconstitutional. She said it did not allow her to practice her right to religious freedom and personal expression. Shortly after the complainant began her legal traineeship in 2017 she was told she would be unable to wear a headscarf in public-facing roles in the courtroom. She then made a complaint to the Hesse Higher Administrative Court and lost, before taking the case to the Constitutional Court. The law in German state of Hesse bans any expression of religion in its courtrooms for its judges. This was extended to trainee lawyers in 2007.

Thursday's ruling was expected to impact a wider debate on the issue in Germany, home to about 4.5 million Muslims, and where rules on use of the hijab differ between the 16 federal states. German national law bans all civil servants from covering their faces, including with Muslim niqabs and burkas - except for health and safety reasons, such as firefighters wearing breathing apparatus. But there is no nationwide ban on civil servants wearing the hijab and many states weigh the trade-off between freedom of religion and civil servants' neutrality rules on a case-by-case basis.


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