|Woman wearing a hijab|
In its judgement the court declared that "involving as it does a private créche" the employee's dismissal for 'serious professional misconduct' constituted "discrimination against religious principles" and that it must be declared "null and void". The judgement went on to state that a previous judgement by a court in Versailles which had declared the dismissal to be legal would also be overturned. The case will now be sent back to be judged before a court of appeal in Paris.
The court also found that the principle of 'laïcité' - the strict French version of secularity - could not be invoked to deprive "employees of private companies which do not supply a public service [...] of the protection of workplace legislation".
This judgement is a sensible one. France already has some of the strictest secular laws in the world, which ban the wearing of almost all religious insignia and clothing in public administrations, schools, hospitals and other state-run organisations. If France sees things that way so be it, but whether we agree with those laws or not French lawmakers are quite rightly at liberty to vote laws as they see fit as long as they do not transgress human and other rights.
And I even agreed with the banning of the burqua in public because I defend the principle that Western society relies on people being able to relate to others via the interpretation of facial expression.
But the idea of strict secularism imposing itself in the private sector is a step too far. Not only that, the court's decision is coherent with respect to a 2004 law which, although imposing strict laïcité in public schools, sensibly exempts private schools.
France is a country in which the state already pokes its nose into people's lives far more than is the case compared to what happens in other Western countries, but if private organisations in France were ever forced to bow to state-inspired ideology it would only be a matter of time before this ideology were imposed upon citizens in their own homes.