Clothed in Religion:
Law and Religious Attire/Garb

A Canopy Forum Thematic Series
November 2022 – January 2023

Ongoing debates about religious attire and appearance – such as the prohibition (or requirement) of hijabs in public spaces; beard restrictions in prison, military, and employment contexts; and more – have significant implications for the legal systems and religious practices of communities around the world. Canopy Forum thus invites scholars and other experts to share their insights and analysis of themes related to the subject.

“Comparing the Two Major Courts Systems in Europe on the Matter of Religious Dress”

James Richardson
January 24th, 2023

“There are two major judicial systems currently operating within the European region, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). The ECtHR is charged with enforcing the European Convention of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR) and thus is the court of last resort for claims that human and civil rights (including religious freedom) have been violated within the 46 current members of the Council of Europe…”

“In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Polonius famously muses that “the apparel oft proclaims the man.” Yet, in today’s increasingly religiously diverse (and religiously unaffiliated) American society wherein about 30% are religiously unaffiliated, as in other nations, issues arise over whether public employees, such as those in the military, can wear distinctively religious garb in the workplace. The First Amendment to the United States’ Constitution reads that ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

“Minorities and Religious Attire in Europe: The Data of The Atlas of Religious or Belief Minority Rights”

Silvio Ferrari
January 9th, 2023

“The issue of religious attire is like a strong wind that suddenly arose some 20 years ago and blew across Europe for a long time. Now that the force of the wind has abated somewhat, it is possible to take an initial stock of the damage this storm has caused to freedom of religion. I shall do this through the lens provided by the data from the Atlas of Religious or Belief Minority Rights, a research project that takes into consideration the rights of 13 religious or belief minorities in 15 European Union countries…”


Almas Shaikh
January 5th, 2023

“Law and religion conflates intimately with a person’s identity. In February 2022, India (until recently seen as a secular melting pot of diversity) banned school girls wearing a hijab attending school. The girls were asked to choose between education and religion, with most discontinuing their education. In a minority religious community like Muslims in India, where education, employment and development indices are already low, denying education is a dangerous trend. Denying education to Muslim women, a marginalized group within the minority, is dangerous…”

“Acarajé, Religious Attire, and Conflict in Brazil”

Danielle Boaz
December 12th, 2022

“The government of Brazil has widely recognized and protected acarajé — a food that originates from Candomblé (an Afro-Brazilian religion), as an important part of the nation’s cultural heritage. In the city of Salvador, Bahia, part of this protection includes requiring sellers to wear Candomblé religious attire. This essay briefly explores the controversy over this rule and places it in the broader context of discrimination and violence against acarajé sellers and Afro-Brazilian religions…”

“Masking as Religious Obligation vs. Masking for Public Safety”

David Zeligman
December 7th, 2022

“Religious attire is typically seen as a form of religious expression, which is protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. By far the most controversial religious dress in Canadian society has been the niqab, and both the federal government and various provincial governments have attempted to ban it in certain circumstances. Courts have recognized that wearing a niqab is protected religious conduct, and bans have generally been unsuccessful as a result…”

“The Case of the Sheitel: How Jewish Law Accommodates, Even on Cultural Matters, to Reduce Systemic Tension”

Michael J. Broyde
November 29th, 2022

“One of the most interesting social developments in Jewish legal and cultural interactions with Western society is the sheitel, the Yiddish word for “wig.” It refers to a very specific type of wig, one worn by married women who wish to cover their hair in compliance with Jewish law while looking “normal” to secular, Western people. Many religious communities, including traditional communities observant of Jewish law, have deep-seated concerns about matters of modesty…”

“Religious Freedom and the Burqa Ban in Italy”

Rebeca Vázquez Gómez 
November 21st, 2022

“The Italian legal system embraces a positive concept of secularism and, in general, demonstrates a positive attitude towards the use of religious symbolism by individuals irrespective of the denomination to which they belong, as evidenced by the lack of discussion about hijabs in schools. However, perhaps because full veils are not perceived as religious attire, there have been attempts to ban garments such as the burqa, which covers the face completely or the niqab, which leaves the eyes uncovered in public places…”