A rule that has been in existence since 1837 in the U.S. House of Representatives technically bans the “really harmless but apparently indecorous practice” of hat-wearing indoors. While this particular rule hasn’t been enforced when it comes to religious headgear, with Democrats in control of the House come January 3, a change to that rule could be coming.
As reported by NBC News, the recent elections have given the first two Muslim women seats in the House from next year in the form of Minnesota Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar and Michigan Rep.-elect Rashida Tlaib. While Tlaib does not wear a headscarf, Omar does, and her success in the election has brought the hat-wearing rule to the fore.
Once the Democrats take control of the House, they have every intention of adding an exemption for religious headgear to the rule, making sure that everyone in the House is explicitly free to express their religion should they choose to do so.
“Democrats know that our strength lies in our diversity, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or religion,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in a statement.
“After voters elected the most diverse Congress in history, clarifying the antiquated rule banning headwear will further show the remarkable progress we have made as a nation.”
No one puts a scarf on my head but me. It’s my choice—one protected by the first amendment.— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) November 17, 2018
And this is not the last ban I’m going to work to lift. https://t.co/7U3ZLTaWur
Omar has publicly praised this plan, also making a statement about her headscarf in a tweet.
“No one puts a scarf on my head but me. It’s my choice — one protected by the First Amendment. And this is not the last ban I’m going to work to lift.”
The November 6 midterm elections have just given America its most diverse Congress in history, mostly among the Democrats who will be taking seats next year. While the diversity in race and ethnicity in the House will be new, religious diversity has been represented in Congress for quite some time already.
Currently, about half of Congress identifies as Protestant Christians, and at the start of the current Congress in 2015, nearly one-third identified themselves as Catholic. Another 30 members of the House and Senate are Jewish. Other religions represented include Buddhists, Muslims, and Mormons.
None of the Jewish representatives wear their yarmulkes to the House, but if the Democrats change the rules, they will be free to do so. The Speaker of the House is responsible for ensuring the dress code is upheld when the House is in session.