*Puts on serious face*
On April 1, France’s Senate voted in favor of a new “Separatism Law,” the most controversial part of which was a ban on wearing a hijab in public for those under 18. Overall, this bill represents an egregious violation of both freedom of religion and freedom of expression. It is driven primarily by France’s nonpartisan hyper-secularist attitude that has been festering since the French Revolution, not by the global religious right-wing, as some have claimed.
*Puts on clown nose*
France’s government has now tried to ban the hijab for minors, as part of a larger bill. It is a terrible encroachment of women’s rights and must be stopped. It is helpful to name the causes of such disastrous policy in other countries in order to stop it from coming here. Clearly, religious conservatives are to blame, and they would not think twice about passing a similar law in America. As someone who has seen the entirety of Netflix’s Emily in Paris, I think I have a very good understanding of French culture. The outlet euronews has a good breakdown of all the parts in the bill, so I’m gonna take you through it and show you exactly how French conservatives are very similar to their American counterparts.
In a November 2020 speech, French President Emmanuel Macron pledged to take on “Islamic separatism,” feeding into the narrative that Muslims are coming from the Middle East with the goal of destroying the West. During his contentious election in 2017, Macron received the endorsement of none other than Barack Obama, the most conservative president in American history.
Now, we know that conservatives hate homeschooling.
The French bill takes a serious stand against homeschooling and religious schools. Macron has said he fears schools where students’ “education consists of prayers.” The new legislation essentially makes homeschooling illegal for all students outside of a few exceptions like health reasons. Now, we know that conservatives hate homeschooling. The last anti-homeschooling argument to make waves in the media was an article in The Arizona Law Review by Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Bartholet. She claims that many religious parents who homeschool “don’t believe in the scientific method, looking to the Bible instead as their source for understanding the world.” In an interview with Harvard Magazine, Bartholet blasted the conservative Home Schooling Legal Defense Association. Conservatives very often attack other conservative groups for being too conservative, and Harvard professors are typically very right-wing.
The bill also institutes greater government oversight of religious institutions. Local governments now have the authority to shut down places of worship that push ideologies which, broadly defined, “cause discrimination, hatred or violence.” The law also compels organizations that receive government funds to sign a contract that affirms their belief in the government’s values. Where have we heard that before? Ah yes, in 2019, ultra-conservative presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke came out in favor of taxing churches that do not support gay marriage. “There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break for anyone or any institution, any organization in America that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us,” he said. That same year, O’Rourke, in a very conservative way, declared in a debate, “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15.”
So, next time a Republican argues that religion is inherently patriarchal and has been the cause of massive amounts of discrimination in the country, do us all a favor and correct him.
Above all, the law affirms a governmental commitment to “the principles of secularism.” We all know that Republicans love secularism. After all, look at all those times Republicans have taken down public monuments of the Ten Commandments, tried to keep prayer out of public schools, and argued that “In God, we trust” should be taken off of currency. It is clear that conservatives have created a breeding ground for the French law to come here with their advocacy for an expansion of government control of religious institutions and the bolstering of separation of church and state. So, next time a Republican argues that religion is inherently patriarchal and has been the cause of massive amounts of discrimination in the country, do us all a favor and correct him.