Nuns can wear habits to the Supreme Court, but a tribal leader was blocked from wearing his regalia
Yakama Nation Tribal Council Chairman JoDe Goudy traveled from Washington to Washington, D.C., to observe Supreme Court oral arguments in a case with direct implications for his tribe. But when the day came, he was blocked from doing so—because he was wearing his traditional tribal garb, including a headdress.
Two court officials, including what appears to be a member of the Supreme Court of the United States Police—yes, it’s separate—gave Goudy two equally absurd reasons for his exclusion, one logistical and one policy-based. Goudy posted a video clip capturing the conversation on his Facebook page; it has more than 50,000 views.
To the claim that Goudy’s headdress might obstruct views, Goudy answered that he’d sit in the back. It was harder to fight their assertion that it’s against court policy for attendees to wear distinguishing garb that could signal their alignment with one party or another on the fly, but we’re here with the receipts.
As Mark Joseph Stern’s also noted, the claim that attendees can’t wear distinguishing clothing doesn’t check out. Consider what a set of very vocal, very visible religious adherents protesting a contraceptive coverage requirement wore to the Supreme Court.
A gaggle of nuns in black and lavender-grey habits sat in the gallery of the US Supreme Court on Tuesday, surrounded by members of the public and clergy during oral arguments in what’s come to be known as the Little Sisters of the Poor case.
Habits have been out since Vatican II. The nuns didn’t just distinguish themselves as religious but as conservative Catholics. If he were in the back, Goudy’s headdress would be no more obstructive than a nun’s wimple.
One has to assume an apology and policy clarification will be forthcoming. If not, perhaps we’ll see a case challenging Goudy’s exclusion from the courtroom a few terms from now. Rightfully so.