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Congressman Brad Sherman

Representing the 30th District of CALIFORNIA



Mar 4, 2004
Press Release

[Washington, D.C.] – Congressman Brad Sherman, the top Democrat on the Human Rights Subcommittee of the International Relations Committee, introduced a resolution sharply criticizing the Government of France for oppressing the free expression of religion.

Sherman’s resolution, H. Res. 528, was introduced in response to the French National Assembly passing a measure, supported by French President Jacques Chirac, forbidding the wearing of religious clothing including the Muslim headscarf, yarmulkes, and Sikh turbans in public schools.  Yesterday, the French Senate also passed the measure.  The law will take effect at the beginning of the new school year.  

“President Chirac, his Cabinet, and now the French Parliament have decided that showing any religious affiliation on one’s body is tantamount to proselytism and propaganda.  Their actions will only serve to distort public understanding of religious devotion and for many, the new regulations will mean choosing between their faith and their education—a dilemma no one should have to face,” said Congressman Sherman. “State control over an individual’s expression of faith runs counter to democratic beliefs in the free exercise of religion, freedom of speech, and the separation of church and state.  It is our responsibility to encourage other countries to cherish these principles and to abide by international conventions supporting religious freedom.”

Specifically, H.Res.528 expresses the sense of the House that “France should modify or abandon its ban on religious symbols in state schools, and respect the freedom of all to practice their religious faith without state interference.”

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent federal agency advising the Administration and Congress, and the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights have also expressed concerns over the French law.