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Headscarf woman
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/S. Hoppe

Headscarf ban for trainee lawyers ruled constitutional

February 27, 2020

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.


A headscarf ban for lawyers and trainees in German courtrooms is not unconstitutional, ruled the country's top court on Thursday.

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.

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.

Judges at the Constitutional Court agreed on the ruling with one vote against. Ulrich Maidowski said that in he did not think that interference with freedom of belief can be justified under constitutional law.

Read more: Headscarves, Pussyhats and yarmulkes: Stories on our heads

What's the background to the case?

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.

The Constitutional Court ruling emphasized that all states in Germany are able to enforce a ban on headscarves, but they must not — it is up to the individual states to decide if they want to or not.

kmm/rc (dpa,KNA)

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