U.S. Criticizes French Proposal to Ban Religious Symbols in Schools

December 18, 2003

Source: The New York Times


On December 18, 2003 The New York Times reported, "The Bush administration on Thursday gently criticized a French proposal to ban head scarves and other conspicuous religious items from the public schools, saying that such displays constitute 'a basic right that should be protected.' In the first public comment by a United States official about the controversy, John V. Hanford, the administration's top-ranking official on issues of religious freedom, took issue with President Jacques Chirac's call for legislation to prevent the wearing of head scarves for Muslim girls, large crosses for Christians and skullcaps for Jewish boys. 'A fundamental principle of religious freedom that we work for in many countries of the world, including on this very issue of head scarves, is that all persons should be able to practice their religion and their beliefs peacefully, without government interference, as long as they are doing so without provocation and intimidation of others in society,' Mr. Hanford said."