The House of Representatives has lifted a 181-year-old ban against wearing hats on the floor of the House. The ban was instituted in 1837 as to push back against the British custom of wearing hats in parliament.
The change has been made to accommodate newly-elected Ilhan Omar, a Muslim who wears hijab. It will also enable another newly-elected Muslim, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, to do the same.
In addition, Democrats say the ban will be lifted to allow others to wear headgear on the floor based on religious or medical considerations. It would, of course, be untenable for the Dems to lift the ban to accommodate Muslims but not, say, Orthodox Jews.
I support this change in the rules. Whatever one’s view of Ilhan Omar, she should be able to perform her duties as a congresswoman without violating the dress requirements of her religion (assuming no threat to security on the House floor). Accommodating deeply held religious beliefs when doing so imposes no undue hardship is a cherished principle in America, or should be.
I do wonder what the response would have been if, at some point during the 181 year history of this rule (or even now), an Orthodox Jew had sought permission to wear a kippah on the House floor. But speculation about this, or even evidence that such requests have been denied in the past, is no basis for opposing the ability of Ilhan Omar to adhere to religious requirements regarding headwear while performing her job.
The Muslim congresswoman responded to news of the rule change with this comment:
There are those kinds of policies that oftentimes get created because people who have blind spots are in positions of influence and positions of power. I think it will be really exciting to see the stuff that we notice within the rules that don’t (sic) work for a modern-day America.
Notice what she’s doing here. Rather than celebrating the American tradition of religious freedom (does she even believe in it for other religions?), she’s using the rule against headwear as a proxy for “rules that don’t work for a modern-day America” and for a generalized attack on those in “positions of power” — in other words as a proxy for the progressive agenda.
As Meira Svirsky of the Clarion Project says:
[Omar] is wrong to call for a change in rules just because they don’t work for “modern-day America.” In terms of this rule, there is a much more compelling reason to change it: The hat ban literally infringes on the Constitution itself, namely the seminal right laid down in the First Amendment that guarantees the free exercise of religion to all citizens. . . .
Omar’s excitement to abolish rules that “don’t work for a modern-day America” would, by contrast, set a dangerous precedent, making Congress and other governmental institutions subject to the whims of whatever dogma is deemed politically correct at the time and by the ruling party.
By contrast, the Constitution gives us absolute values with which to legislate laws and set down rules.
But don’t expect Omar Ilhan to understand or appreciate this reality.