• France's news in English
 

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
France to enlist hackers to tackle jihadists
The hackers will help stop jihadist recruiters before they've convinced young French nationals to join their cause. Photo: AFP

France to enlist hackers to tackle jihadists

France's Prime Minister Manuel Valls has announced that he plans to turn to computer hackers, often the scourge of governments worldwide, in order to infiltrate online jihadist networks. READ  

Europe takes France to task for Uber crackdown
France's crackdown on Uber may not be that legal after all. Photo: AFP

Europe takes France to task for Uber crackdown

Regulators in Brussels are pressuring France over a new law designed to halt the meteoric rise of Uber, the popular taxi app that is facing fierce opposition from traditional cabs. READ  

Paris migrant camp taken down over scabies fears
Hundreds of migrants, mostly from East Africa, live in this camp, some for a year, under the elevated railway near the Porte de la Chapelle. Photo: AFP

Paris migrant camp taken down over scabies fears

The 400 migrants who had set up a temporary shelter not far from Montmartre in northern Paris have been told to leave after officials warned of the high risks of epidemic sicknesses spreading. READ  

France bans smoking in childrens playgrounds
Lighting up will be banned in French playgrounds this summer. Photo: AFP

France bans smoking in childrens playgrounds

France’s crackdown on tobacco will continue this summer as the government announced this week smokers will no longer be allowed to light up in playgrounds. READ  

What's the story behind French Neighbours' Day?
Families get together in the northern suburbs of Paris on Neighbour's Day. Photo: AFP

What's the story behind French Neighbours' Day?

Friday marks Neighbours' Day (Fête des Voisins), a celebration that has spread across the world after it was created in France. Find out how the discovery of a dead woman's body prompted the movement, and how you're expected to take part. READ  

Ten Tips - Pickpockets
How to avoid the Paris Metro pickpockets
Thieves love "the overcrowded Paris Metro, where pushing, shoving, stumbling and chaos of every variety are always just around the corner." Photo: Thomas Ulrich

How to avoid the Paris Metro pickpockets

You might be a seasoned pro on the Paris Metro, or just visiting for a few days. Either way, you will need to watch out for ingenious pickpockets working the French capital’s underground rail network. Here's a guide on how to avoid being robbed. READ  

Crime in Paris
How Eiffel Tower thieves earned €4,000 a day each
Crowds regularly swarm beneath the Eiffel Tower. Photo: Krzysztof Belczyński/Flickr

How Eiffel Tower thieves earned €4,000 a day each

Paris police busted a pickpocket gang this week, who "earned" up to €4,000 a day each in peak season by preying on tourists at the Eiffel Tower. But how exactly were they pinching your belongings? Here's a closer look. READ  

VIDEO: Top five street scams to avoid in Paris
Here are five street scams everyone should know about in Paris. Photo: Screengrab/YouTube

VIDEO: Top five street scams to avoid in Paris

As ten members of the Eiffel Tower gang of pickpockets are caught, we take a look at five well-known street scams that tourists and visitors to Paris regularly fall victim to. READ  

Dining in Paris
Paris chefs embrace rooftop gardens
Frame Brasserie sous-chef Ogier Pottiez picks plants the rooftop of the Pullman Eiffel Tower hotel in Paris. Photo: AFP

Paris chefs embrace rooftop gardens

Chefs in Paris are taking the concept of "eating locally" to heart, with rooftop gardens sprouting up around the French capital. And they say the concept is here to stay. READ  

National Front demands EU referendum in France
Should the French also have a referendum on their membership in the EU? Photo: AFP

National Front demands EU referendum in France

David Cameron's pledge to hold an in/out referendum on Britain's membership of the EU has been backed by France's far right National Front party, which wants the same in France, where views of the EU have soured over the years. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Paris signals the end of the love lock
International
VIDEO: Top five street scams to avoid in Paris
What's on in France: Ten things to do in June
Study: Over 40 percent of the French don't shower every day
Opinion: Can France's new mega university rival the best?
'We need to talk about Europe... and what it has brought the UK'
National
Look what you can buy in France for the price of a London flat
France honours four French Resistance heros
Culture
The French film that cinemas are too scared to show
Features
How many of these stunning Paris streets have YOU walked down?
National
British woman bites off French reveller's thumb
National
200 years on, why is Waterloo still taboo for the French?
Features
Take a tour of the best Metro stations that Paris has to offer
National
Soon there'll be a fixed fare for a taxi ride from the airport into Paris
National
Drug dealers in Marseille are offering customers loyalty cards
Soon there'll be no minimum for using your bank card in France
Features
Fancy starting a business and living in Paris? There's help available
National
Are you fearing a Brexit? Maybe it's time to become a French citizen
How hard-up French are tempted by money to take migrants to the UK
Bupa
Sponsored Article
Healthcare: 9 questions every expat should ask
Education
More English words (including 'le selfie') sneak into French
Charlie Hebdo to give €4.3m to attack victims
National
French Protestants bless gay marriage
Opinion
Why elitism is dragging France down
Features
RECIPE: How to make your own picnic-perfect meringues
Business & Money
French tax declaration deadline: Key things to remember
VIDEO: Can YOU pronounce the trickiest word in French?
France tops holiday wish list for children
National
Study: Women do bulk of housework in France
National
VIDEO: Police use force on Calais migrants
National
This man is France's Instagram king. But who else makes the top list?
Features
Free museum entry, film festivals, sports... see What's On this in May
Culture
Behind the curtain: A closer look at the Cannes Film Festival
National
It's a boy! Baby born on Air France flight to Paris
Features
Love-locked: Whatever happened to Paris's beautiful bridges?
'Forget the UK election, expats should be able to vote in France'
Thomas Piketty backs Miliband for Britain but not Hollande for France
Gallery
The most spectacular sunset pictures from around France
National
France tells migrants in Calais to 'forget the UK and stay here'
Society
VIDEO: See what's beneath the surface of the French Riviera
National
French teen suicide after sex video web bullying
France launches bid to buy Europe's biggest and most spectacular dune
Double standards? French Muslim barred from class over long skirt
National
France goes on the defensive after UN experts say 'racism is trivialised'
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