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A Closer Look At The Virginia Mask Law

8:36 PM, Sep 13, 2011   |    comments
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(WUSA) -- As we're approaching Halloween, you may want to refrain from wearing your mask in public before the scary day if you live in Virginia. Doing so landed a 19-year-old Spotsylvania man behind bars.

Wearing masks in Virginia's public places is a felony that could land you behind bars up to 5 years. Attorney Robert Hall showed us the 1960 statute last amended in 1986. The code prohibits anyone older than 16 from wearing masks or hoods except on Halloween or for medical, safety, or weather reasons.  Why?

"This was oriented towards making Klu Klux Klan members be less intimidating by requiring them to disclose their identity," explained Hall.

But what if you're concealing your identity for religious reasons like many Muslim women? Surprisingly, there is no exemption: according to the law, that too is illegal.

"If someone thought it was important to their reelection or their initial election that they propose the prosecution of someone wearing a burkah, they could get them on this statute," said Hall.

"Clearly, there should be a religious exemption," said Imam Johari Abdul-Malik with the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center. He says it's a dangerous loophole that infringes on their civil rights.

He added, "Virginia has changed. There are people who cover their faces now who didn't cover their faces in the 1960s."

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This is clearly an old law. Should Virginia take it off the books or update it?  Send your thoughts to mailbag@wusa9.com or sound off on our Facebook page.

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