• France edition
 
France urged to scrap veil ban for school trips
File photo: Philippe Merle/AFP

France urged to scrap veil ban for school trips

Published: 23 Dec 2013 16:13 GMT+01:00

France's Conseil d’Etat (Council of State) told the government to overturn France’s de facto prohibition on Muslim mothers’ wearing the Islamic veil while accompanying pupils and teachers on school trips.

The Council, which acts as an advisory body to the government, ruled that mothers simply offering teachers additional adult supervision on school outings should not be "not submitted to [the requirements of] religious neutrality."

A controversial 2004 law prohibits the wearing or open display of religious symbols in all French schools and colleges, including crucifixes, Jewish skull caps and the Muslim headscarf  - the hijab.

The law was inspired by France’s principles of secularism and equality and the belief that schools and public buildings should be a neutral environment where people are not identified by their religion.

Since a 2011 circular by then Education Minister Luc Chatel, that divisive law had been interpreted as also forbidding women wearing the veil from offering additional adult supervision on school outings.

The issue is one of a handful related to France’s tradition of strict secularism, known as “laicité”, brought to the Council of State in September by the country’s Defenseur des Droits (Human rights ombudsman), Dominique Baudis.

Chatel’s successor, Vincent Peillon, said last week that he intended to “follow French law,” which according to Chatel’s designation, held that parents who accompany children on school trips “are considered to be auxiliary public servants."

That label could make them subject to the same rules and restrictions as teachers in French public schools, but the lack of clarity in the law is what inspired rights ombudsman Baudis to ask the Council of State to intervene in the first place.

Speaking to The Local earlier this year Baudis said: “We are asking the government to clarify the 2004 law over the banning of religious symbols, because it is not clear and it needs updating. We are asking for clarification between the principle of liberty, laid down in the constitution, and that of the principle of secularism, which is particular to France.

“Secularism is very special in France. In the UK, the US, Germany etc it is not the same. It’s a core part of our laws.

“The law was a good thing in 2004, but there are now grey areas that need to be cleared up. We are not in a position to say what that law needs to be, but only that it is blurred when it comes to areas like wearing the veil," Baudis added.

Since the Council is not a judicial body, but rather an advisory one, the Socialist government of President François Hollande is not legally obliged to implement its recommendation to drop the ban.

The de facto prohibition had drawn criticism from several different quarters in France. On Saturday, Catholic Archbishop of Paris, Monsignor André Vingt-Trois warned that France risked becoming a “prohibition society”, due to a “fear of the Other.”

Vingt-Trois also pointed out some practical problems associated with the ban, saying: “There have been some regrettable excesses [in implementing secularism] which have meant that primary school teachers have given up on school outings.”

For his part, Franck Frégosi from the national research centre CNRE, expressed concern that recent developments “are perceived as almost exclusively targeting Muslims.”

Jean Baubérot, a sociologist of religions, warned the government against using secularism as a “catchall” solution to a variety of complex problems, and criticized the veil ban as counter-productive.

“How can we pretend to be helping integration [of immigrant communities], while also refusing these women a role in public life?” he was quoted as asking by French TV TF1.

Monday's opinion from the Council of State came just days after a report on integration, commissioned by Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, surprised many by recommending the repeal of the 2004 ban on religious symbols in public schools.

Don't miss stories about France, join us on Facebook and Twitter

Dan MacGuill (dan.macguill@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Ten things to do in France before Christmas
There's some great things to do in France before Christmas. Photo: AFP

Ten things to do in France before Christmas

With Christmas just round the corner, we've put together ten great festive and not-so-festive events happening around France in December to help you brave the cold and have a ball. READ  

More violent storms set for south of France
The south of France is set to be hit by more rough weather. Photo:AFP

More violent storms set for south of France

The south of France is set to be lashed by more extreme weather with some 12 departments placed on alert for floods on Thursday after violent storms and heavy rain were forecast. READ  

Economists urge 'meek' France to be bold
Photo: Guiseppe Cacace/AFP

Economists urge 'meek' France to be bold

A top level economic report on Thursday urged European heavyweights France and Germany to implement urgent economic reforms, warning that Europe risked falling into a "stagnation trap." READ  

New pills that make flatulence smell like roses
Christian Poincheval, the man behind the scented-flatulence pills. Photo: Pilulepet.com

New pills that make flatulence smell like roses

A Frenchman may have come up with the perfect solution to one of life's major problems after he claimed to have invented a pill that makes bodily gases smell like roses and chocolate READ  

France and Russia
Russia's Christmas gift to Paris raises eyebrows
From Russia...with love? Paris's diplomatic relations with Moscow have been strained by the ongoing crisis in the Ukraine. Photo: Pierre Verdy/AFP

Russia's Christmas gift to Paris raises eyebrows

Cash-strapped Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris has been handed a gigantic Christmas tree as a gift by an unlikely benefactor: Russia. But questions are being asked whether there is an ulterior motive behind the Christmas present. READ  

Farmers cry wolf in Paris over sheep 'massacre'
Sheep graze under the Eiffel Tower, as their shepherds protest against wolf attacks. Photo: Patrick Kovarick/AFP

Farmers cry wolf in Paris over sheep 'massacre'

Sheep grazed around the Eiffel Tower on Thursday as angry French farmers flocked to the capital to express their frustration over increasing attacks by wolves which some say have been "overprotected" by the government. READ  

Opinion - Lending to Le Pen
'France must ban foreign loans to political parties'
Whether or not Putin's attempts to meddle in French politics were the reason behind a €9 million loan to the National Front, it has to be forbidden, a lawmaker tells The Local. Photo:AFP

'France must ban foreign loans to political parties'

News that France's far-right National Front party had secured a €9 million loan from a Russian bank sent tremors through the French political class and prompted a French lawmaker to propose a bill to outlaw the practice. He told The Local why it was necessary. READ  

Paris holds on to title of world's best student city
There were a staggering 96,782 foreigners studying in Paris in 2013. Photo of student in Paris: Shutterstock

Paris holds on to title of world's best student city

Paris has clinched top spot in the global "Best Student Cities" rankings for the third year running, beating off stiff opposition from the likes of Melbourne, London and Boston. READ  

Napoleon's locks to be put in Swiss watches
Detail of portrait of Napoleon by painter Jacques-Louis David (1812).

Napoleon's locks to be put in Swiss watches

Napoleon's admirers will be able to carry his DNA on their wrists after a Swiss company announced Tuesday its plans to sell watches containing a fragment of the emperor's hair. READ  

Angry French women shame gynos on Twitter
French women shame gynecologists on Twitter. Gynaecology photo: Shutterstock

Angry French women shame gynos on Twitter

French women fed up with inappropriate comments or behaviour from gynaecologists have taken to Twitter in their thousands to vent their spleen. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Education
Is Paris really the best place in the world to be a student?
Society
The things gynecologists say that drive French women mad
Sponsored Article
Win a €250 voucher for your Christmas list
National
A pill to make flatulence smell like roses? A Frenchman has cracked it
Culture
Rare 400-year-old Shakespeare work found in northern France
National
Paris air pollution: 'It's like being in a room with eight smokers'
National
From infidelity to sexual needs: How French women have changed in 30 years
National
Billboards to be replaced by trees - the bold move by one French city
Gallery
French government gives 10 reasons to be proud: No. 1 - The Economy
Politics
France's 'first ladies': A look back at the other halves
National
Would background music make the RER in Paris feel safer?
Sponsored Article
Shop Christmas gifts at Debenhams international store
National
Trierweiler to break her silence... in the UK
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Winter is coming to the French Alps
Gallery
Don't confuse France with Paris: Here's ten reasons why
Sponsored Article
Live like a local - anywhere in the world
National
From the homeless to migrants: A portrait of modern France in ten stats
Culture
Are you brainy enough to be Miss France? Take the quiz
Gallery
France's most notorious celebrities. How many do you know?
Society
City of Love? Seven Paris myths debunked
Education
Why is France worst in the EU at English?
National
C'est pas possible! Paris is 'world's cheapest city for young people'
National
Looking to save space? France allows toilets in kitchens for first time
National
Find out how women in France are getting stung for a hidden tax
Culture
Which one is your favourite? The top 10 heartiest French winter dishes
Face Of The Week
Nabilla - 'France's Kim Kardashian' held for attempted murder
National
So who's scaring everyone by flying drones over France’s nuclear plants?
Education
Whoever thinks French was a dying language should read this
Politics
OPINION: 'One day France will be grateful to François Hollande'
Gallery
IN IMAGES: A history of France's most controversial architecture
National
How to make an 8-square-metre Paris apartment perfectly liveable
Gallery
VIDEO: France's raunchiest TV ads, including that infamous Perrier one
National
Five reasons why you should work a ski season in France and five not to
National
10 art exhibitions not to miss this autumn in Paris
Culture
What's on in France: 11 things to do this November
National
How French have you become? Take our quiz to find out
National
10 things to never say to a French person
National
Top 10: When French translations go wrong
National
Parisian bars that serve drinkers free meals
National
France falls to Germans in nude swim tourney
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Nowhere combines sex and art quite like France
National
Why you should never turn down an invitation to a French wedding
Sport
Discover the route of the 2015 Tour de France. There are a few surprises
Gallery
Ten changes that would make learning French so much easier
Culture
IN PICTURES: 'Glass ship' Vuitton ready to set sail in Paris
International
How a giant 'sex toy' earned an American artist a slap in Paris
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se