Monday, January 29, 2007

Zimbabwe Supreme Court Considers Rastafarian Challenge To School Rules

In Zimbabwe last week, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case challenging the expulsion of a first-grade boy from Ruvheneko Primary School in Glen Norah because he came to school wearing dreadlocks. The Harare Herald today reports that the boy's family is challenging the school's rule as a violation of the Rastafarian student's religious freedom. Zimbabwe's Constitution (Sec. 19) protects freedom of religion and conscience, but provides that actions "under authority of law ... with respect to standards or qualifications to be required in relation to places of education" do not violate these protections unless the action is shown to "not to be reasonably justifiable in a democratic society". The boy's lawyer argued to the Supreme Court that the school's grooming provision was a rule and not a "law" as that term is used in the exclusion in Sec. 19. The first-grader is currently back in school under a lower court order that permitted him to attend wearing his dreadlocks pending a decision by the Supreme Court.