On That Religious Freedom Question …

Demonstrators Protest Over The Introduction Of A Ban On Women Covering Their Faces In France

It might be worth asking various figures on the evangelical right if they are outraged by the decision today by the European Court of Human Rights to uphold the French ban on the public wearing of the full-face veil:

At the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, judges said the ban was a legitimate attempt to preserve the norms of France’s diverse society and did not infringe on Europe’s Convention on Human Rights. The court was ruling on a case brought by an unidentified Frenchwoman who said the law, first passed in 2010 and implemented in 2011, was discriminatory and violated her freedom of conscience.

And here’s a rather strong case that the issue is one of genuine personal conscience and conviction:

In a statement summarizing the ruling on its website, the court said the woman “is a devout Muslim and in her submissions she said that she wore the burqa and niqab in accordance with her religious faith, culture and personal convictions … The applicant also emphasized that neither her husband nor any other member of her family put pressure on her to dress in this manner. She added that she wore the niqab in public and in private, but not systematically. She was thus content not to wear the niqab in certain circumstances but wished to be able to wear it when she chose to do so. Lastly, her aim was not to annoy others but to feel at inner peace with herself,” the statement said.

For the record, I oppose the ban as an infringement on religious freedom of expression – and always have. I can see how other factors could be cited in favor of the ban – notably that the full veil hurts the possibility of “open interpersonal relationships, which, by virtue of an established consensus, formed an indispensable element of community life within the society in question.” But there are broader issues involved in Hobby Lobby as well: the government’s interest in providing affordable health insurance for the population, the health of women, the reduction in abortions, etc. And the niqab question affects directly only around 2,000 women, compared with Hobby Lobby’s theoretical impact on over half of employees in America.

So let’s hear it from America’s religious right: are you consistent about religious liberty and will do all you can to protect Muslim freedom of religious expression – or admit, you’re only about asserting your own Christian identity and no one else’s.

Somehow, I suspect few of them will be put on the spot like that. But they should be, don’t you think?

The Dish has covered this issue before – read the full thread here. Update from a reader:

This book is the best one on the French ban. It allows one to understand culturally why this ban is so French.  I just wonder about all those French feminists who are trying to save their Muslim sisters from the “horror” of the veil realize that now they have just prevented these women from being able to leave their homes.

(Photo: Two women wearing Islamic niqab veils stand outside the French Embassy during a demonstration on April 11, 2011 in London, England. France has become the first country in Europe to ban the wearing of the veil. By Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)