Editorial: Europeans and Americans Divided Over Religious Freedom

February 15, 2004

Source: The First Amendment Center


On February 15, 2004 The First Amendment Center published an editorial by Charles Haynes responding to the French ban on religious symbols in the public schools. "The head-scarf issue crystallizes the European-American divide (Belgium recently followed the French lead and moved to ban head scarves in schools; Germans are debating the issue). Most Europeans I encountered [in Europe] reject the American contention that people have a right to practice their faith free of government control. They applaud the French model of secular schools as religion-free zones. And some expressed skepticism about the successful integration of Muslims into an increasingly secular Western Europe... The United States may be a new experiment measured against centuries of European civilization. But this much we have learned: Peace among people of many faiths – and of no faith – is possible only when the state guards liberty of conscience for each and every person."