Columnists > The burkini ban in France is but the most recent assault on religious freedom

08 September 2016 | by Richard Leonard

The burkini ban in France is but the most recent assault on religious freedom


I’ve never wanted to see habited and veiled Catholic nuns more in my life. At French beaches. In droves. Religious liberty is not about any particular religion; it is about how Western secular pluralistic democracies enshrine the rights of their citizens to the free exercise of religion and, rightly, to defend others’ rights to have no religion at all. Although the banning of the burkini from French beaches is dressed up in the language of the culture wars, it is but the most recent assault on religious freedom.

Several countries have already banned the wearing of crosses in the workplace. Crucifixes have been ordered to be removed from classrooms, not in Islamic republics, but in Ireland, Spain, France, the Czech Republic and Italy. Even holy ground for the dead is not immune. There are no religious symbols at the 9/11 memorial, which, for the families of the victims, is a monumental cemetery. And Dudley, Massachusetts, is being investigated by a federal attorney over its rejection of the local Islamic community’s request to open a cemetery.


Subscribe to The Tablet from just £19.99 quarterly
3 options available

Share this story

Article List

Post a Comment

You can post as a subscriber user...

User Comments (2)

Comment by: Ed
Posted: 09/09/2016 14:33:16
Fr. Leonard, may I remind you what does Islam, Quran, Hadith and the Sunnah have to say about Christ and Christians? Islamism is as much a threat to freedom of religion as any militant atheist. It is only in the Judeo-Christian environment that secular pluralism has emerged; as many Islamists have repeatedly said, use what the West gives to undermine it and take it over. The strategy seems to be working.
Comment by: Ishvara
Posted: 08/09/2016 15:01:39
Does Richard Leonard consider seriously other peoples' opinions and beliefs rather than his own? " It is about the religious liberty of all of us in an increasingly hostile secular society", he writes. "Hostile secular society" is an oxymoron. Secular society is about equality for all and opposition to forces that undermine that equality. If the secular opposition is uncompromising, given the seriousness of the threat, it quickly gets tarred as "hostile". Leonard was correct when he described the founder of his Order as a 'self harmer". But he is quite mistaken to consider a secular society as "hostile".

Sign up for our newsletter

Sign Up

Latest Issue
Digital/PDF Version

PDF version (iPad-friendly)

Previous Issues
Tablet Subscription

Manage my subcription here