A local woman is speaking exclusively to NBC10 after she claims she was denied entry into a South Jersey courtroom because of what she was wearing on her head.
Lenora Gordon says she was heading to a courtroom in Atlantic City for a family court hearing when she was stopped by officers with the Atlantic County Sheriff’s Department.
“I tried going into the courtroom and they’re telling me I had to remove my scarf,” said Gordon.
Gordon says taking off her scarf that covers her head would violate her religious beliefs as a Muslim. She refused to take it off and claims the officers would not allow her inside the courtroom.
“It’s like they’re discriminating my religion,” said Gordon. “I’ve been in this court plenty of times with my scarf on and I’ve worn a scarf plenty of times. They never told me I had to remove my scarf.”
Atlantic County Sheriff Frank Balles tells NBC10 the officers were carrying out standards set by the judge. He also claims Gordon did not initially mention that the scarf was a religious head covering.
“The scarf she had on had no resemblance of religious headgear whatsoever,” said Sheriff Balles. “She said that she could not take it off because her hair was a mess, it was all frizzy and it had fuzzies in it.”
“It didn’t happen like that,” said Gordon. “I told them what it was from the beginning. It’s against my religion.”
The court’s operations manager told NBC10 no one should be denied to a courtroom because of a headscarf, regardless of their religion.
“I feel very upset,” said Gordon.
After speaking with NBC10 outside, Gordon was later allowed inside the courtroom with the scarf on. She says she’s still not satisfied however.
“I would like an apology,” said Gordon.
NBC10 tried to contact the judge but has not heard back from him. The sheriff tells NBC10 the department will conduct an internal investigation and review its policy as a result of the incident.