The Discrimination – Fanaticism Cycle – “Garb” Statutes

A passage in Kent Greenawalt’s Does God Belong in Public Schools? discusses the case of a Muslim school teacher who could not teach in Philadelphia public schools because she wore “religious garb,” which violated the Pennsylvania’s “Religious Garb” statute.

That no teacher in any public school shall wear in said school or while engaged in the performance of his duty as such teacher any dress, mark, emblem or insignia indicating the fact that such teacher is a member or adherent of any religious order, sect or denomination.

I wondered if a distinction could be made between clothing which identifies a person as part of a religious order and clothing which identifies a person as a member of a religion. I wanted to assert that members of an order typically wear the same style of clothes, almost a uniform, while Muslim women, while complying with custom or perceived religious instruction, wear a wide variety of clothing. Is it still religious clothing if her hem line is 2 cm above her ankles or 5 cm of her forearms are revealed? Does color matter? Is the shelwar qamees worn in the Indian subcontinent acceptable while an abaya, common in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, is unacceptable? Or vice versa? Continue reading

Erie County judge’s apology for e-mail joke worse than the joke

Tuesday was a depressing day to be in Erie County Judge Michael E. Dunlavey’s courtroom, Dunlavey said.

So when someone e-mailed Dunlavey a joke on Wednesday that riffed on Eddie Murphy’s “Saturday Night Live” Buckwheat skits — which Dunlavey had enjoyed — he quickly forwarded it to court colleagues who, he thought, might need a dose of humor.

Dunlavey said he now realizes the joke, which contained a reference to Islam, might not have seemed funny, particularly to Muslims.


Dunlavey, a military intelligence expert, served as the head of interrogations at the Guantanamo Bay prison for suspected terror suspects in 2002. That and his extensive travel during his military service has probably made him more aware of Islamic culture than anyone in the court, he said.

Dunlavey said Friday he was thinking of Eddie Murphy and not Islam when he forwarded the joke.

Upon reflection, he said, he realized that Muslims would not be aware of the Murphy skit and would likely be offended by the joke.

Does he think every Muslim in the U.S. arrived yesterday? This piece of ignorance is worse than the joke.

It’s also pretty insulting to think that interrogating prisoners at Gitmo, a human rights sinkhole,  and traveling around the world as part of colonial armies makes him “aware of Islamic culture.”

The problem is not being offended by a joke. The problem is whether this judge would be impartial to all the parties who may appear in his court.

Here’s an Arabic proverb which might benefit Judge Dunlavey:

العذر أقبح من الذنب

The excuse is worse than the sin.