Scottish Church Leader Speaks Out Against French Ban of Religious Symbols

March 21, 2004

Source: The Scotsman

On March 21, 2004 The Scotsman reported, "One of Scotland’s leading churchmen has accused the French government of 'persecuting' its own citizens with new laws banning the wearing of religious head-gear in schools and their regulation in the workplace. The Right Reverend Professor Iain Torrance, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, has written a strong letter of protest over the issue claiming the plans would cause 'great distress' to many who wished only to be loyal to their faith and their country...the Moderator is the first Scottish church leader to have spoken out on the subject which he claims damages the principle of freedom of religion throughout Europe...Torrance says he 'fully recognises' that France is a secular state. 'However, what you now propose is effectively to elevate secularism into a matter of faith and thereby to create a persecuting religion,' [he said] 'I remind you that freedom of religion is a fundamental principle of the European Union. Attempts to coerce people into some kind of secular uniformity will cause great distress to many who only wish to be loyal both to their faith and their country.'"