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Muslim Woman Asked to Leave Courtroom

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BRYANT -

It is a common practice to remove your hat when entering a courtroom.

But what if your head gear has spiritual significance?

As a practicing Muslim, Kimberly Meredith wears a head covering called a hijab.

Sometimes it generates smiles.  Other times snubs.

But a recent visit to a Bryant courtroom produced a reaction she wasn't ready for.

"Actually when I went into the courtroom the bailiff yelled across the courtroom 'It may be cold outside but it's not cold in here,' recalls Meredith.  "No head gear in the courtroom."

To a Muslim woman, the hijab represents a commitment to modesty. It is worn in the presence of men outside her family and outside of her home.

So rather than obey the bailiff, Meredith waited for her friend outside the courtroom.

We visited with District Judge Curtis Rickard about the actions of his bailiff.

A list of courtroom rules only mandates that visitors dress appropriately.

While stopping short of saying his bailiff did anything wrong, Judge Rickard did say that if Ms. Meredith visits his courtroom again she will get a warmer reception.

Meredith hopes she is treated more in line with the way she was recently received by a Little Rock bailiff.

"He didn't have to ask me if it was a religious head wrap," says Meredith of the bailiff. "He knew it was. And I just think it is a matter of educating…we're in America, you know, with all types of people. You know Bryant is a smaller community than here in Little Rock but Muslim people may come into your courtroom."

The wearing of religious headgear in Arkansas courtrooms has never been specifically addressed.

Meredith would like to see a uniform policy established.

Air date:  January 23rd, 2012