Today in Paris it became illegal to pray in the streets. The law has been introduced with the intention of stopping Muslims praying in public, however, it applies to all faith groups including Christians. The Telegraph reports Claude Guéant, the Minister for the Interior, as saying the ban could be extended to other French cities and he went on to say:
"My vigilance will be unflinching for the law to be applied. Praying in the street is not dignified for religious practice and violates the principles of secularism." Le Figaro
Guéant also explained that public praying "hurts the sensitivities of many of our fellow citizens".
It appears that the move has been prompted by problems caused on a couple of streets in Paris during Muslim Friday prayers.
In many ways France appears to be a very religious country. As a family we holiday in France each summer and always check the calendar because of the frequent religious festivals when the shops and even many restaurants shut for the day. So what will this law mean for Christians who wish to parade in public on holy days or hold open air services? What happens if the Pope pronounces a blessing as he travels up the Avenue des Champs-Élysées on a visit?
If such a law were introduced in our country would Christians be prepared to break it, or would we accept that the public square was no longer a place where we could express our faith?
My own suspicion is that this law is less about defending secularism and more about keeping Muslims in their place and preventing them displaying their faith in public. It certainly fits with the ban on Muslim women wearing full veils in public. However, it does suggest a form of secularism that is intolerant and even fearful of other belief systems and seems to cut across the much vaunted claim to freedom of expression that I always thought was a cornerstone of democracy.
h/t Tim Goodbody for link to The Telegraph story
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