Man locked up for wearing Voodoo beads in US court

A judge in North Carolina has sent a defendant to the cells for wearing Voodoo beads in his court.

Abu-Bakr Abdur Rahman became embroiled in a debate over whether he had the right to wear his beads, while facing charges of obtaining property by deception.

As far as Judge Talmage Baggett was concerned the beads – which reached as far as his navel – were a distraction.

He took exception to the five necklaces which incorporated beads and a skull-shaped amulet and instructed Mr Rahman to remove them.

However Mr Rahman refused, insisting he was exercising his right to freedom of religion as guaranteed by the First Amendment.

There was a standoff between the judge and Mr Rahman, who was told to either remove the beads or tuck them into his shirt.

Mr Rahman refused and was handcuffed and taken to the cells, where he was held for several hours.

The case was later transferred to another judge who raised no objection to the beads.

Underpinning the dispute is the status of Voodoo, a religion practised in Haiti and a cult which has spread to the USA thanks to immigration.

It is estimated that up to 1.5 million people practice Voodoo in the US.

Chris Brook, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina has sided with Mr Rahman.

"Judges have found similar restrictions on religious expression in courtrooms to be unconstitutional except in limited situations that pose some kind of security threat.

β€œIt's important to remember that the First Amendment protects people of all beliefs – not simply those that are well known or popular."