On Tuesday, the French National Assembly approved a ban on conspicuous religious articles and symbols in state schools. The ban will now go to France’s Senate and is expected to receive final passage in early March. When the new school year begins this September, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and Sikh children will be forbidden from wearing any of the following articles or symbols: the Muslim headscarf, yarmulkes, Sikh turbans, and ostentatious crosses. For many, the new regulations will mean choosing between their faith and their education—a dilemma no one should have to face.
In 1989, the highest administrative French court (the Conseil d’État) ruled that the wearing of religious insignia in state schools was permissible as long as it was not done with the aim of "pressure, provocation, proselytism or propaganda."
Unfortunately, President Chirac, his Cabinet, and now the French Parliament have decided that showing any religious affiliation on one’s body is tantamount to proselytism and propaganda. This decision grossly misrepresents the nature of such practices and will only serve to distort public understanding of religious devotion.
State control over an individual’s expression of faith runs counter to democratic beliefs in the free exercise of religion, freedom of speech, and the separation of church and state. It is our responsibility to encourage other countries to cherish these principles and to abide by international conventions supporting religious freedom.
That is why we have introduced H. Res. 528, expressing the sense of the House that France should modify or abandon its ban on religious symbols in state schools, and respect the freedom of all to practice their religious faith without state interference.
We hope you will join us in supporting religious freedom in France. To sign on as a co-sponsor of H. Res. 528, please contact Anna Woodiwiss of Congressman Sherman’s office at x5-5911, or Maria Baron of Congressman Honda’s office at x5-2631.
Very truly yours,
Brad Sherman Mike Honda
Member of Congress Member of Congress