Muslim Woman Refuses to Rise for Judge, Cites Religion

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on June 06, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

What do you do when a defendant refuses to rise for the judge? The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals grappled with the question in light of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act after a Muslim woman refused to rise for the judge, reports The Wall Street Journal.

District Court Judge Michael Davis nailed Amina Farah Ali with 20 contempt of court charges, when Ali refused to respond the the statement "all rise" in a Minneapolis court house.

Ali cited religious reasons, saying that her religion forbade her from standing up for any person. This was despite the fact that her own clerics had advised her that standing for the judge would have been perfectly acceptable in light of the circumstances, according to The Wall Street Journal.

She eventually came around, after the advice of her clerics. Nevertheless, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the District Court erred when it failed to consider the application of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and whether or not the court was required to accommodate Ali under the law.

Under that law, a burden imposed on a person's religion must be done through the least-restrictive means of achieving a compelling governmental interest.

The case has been sent back to Judge Davis, and he must now consider whether or not his order compelling Ali to stand was the least-restrictive means of achieving courtroom decorum.

Was Ali's behavior justified, when her own religious clerics have partially disagreed with her actions? Was the court obligated to accommodate the defendant's beliefs, regardless of how fringe they were even in light of the generally accepted views of the defendant's religion?

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