Archive for Secularism

Forward.com: Holiday Proposal Sparks French Outrage

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 22, 2012 by loonwatch

An interesting read on the backlash from French politicians when MP Eva Joy proposed allowing Jews and Muslims be allowed to take the day off from school and work on their holiest religious holidays.

Holiday Proposal Sparks French Outrage

by Robert Zaretsky (Forward.com)

The political tempest spawned in France by Standard & Poor’s downgrade of the country’s credit rating has transfixed outside observers. They have thus paid little attention to a different storm now roiling the waters of French society: the question of whether or not French Jews can take the day off on Yom Kippur.

In early January, the Green Party’s candidate for president, Eva Joly, a naturalized French citizen raised in Norway, proposed that French Jews and Muslims should be given the right to take off from work or school on their holiest religious holidays. Observing that official holidays were accorded with Christian celebrations like Easter, Joly affirmed, “Each religion must benefit from equal treatment in the public realm.”

Joly made this declaration at an evening event called the “Night of Equality.” For critics on both the political right and left, “night” suddenly took on a deeper and more disturbing meaning than the soirée’s organizers had intended. Laurent Wauquiez, minister of higher education, took the opportunity to recall what any student of Western civilization already knew: “Our history and roots are Christian.” One of the consequences, he continued, was that this “led to a certain number of national holidays on our calendar.” Wagging his finger at Joly, he concluded, “Toleration in France cannot be built on the negation of our past.”

Eva Joly

GETTY IMAGES
Eva Joly

No less eager to slap down the proposal were the Socialists. Michel Sapin, a spokesman for presidential candidate Francois Hollande, also cited the imprint of the past, but unlike Wauquiez, he dwelt on the imperative of a fully secular society. “Eva Joly would do well to always recall this principle,” Sapin harrumphed.

No surprises here: The left has long emphasized the principle of laicism, the right has long praised the force of history and the two sides have long met somewhere in the middle. What might seem surprising, though, was the reaction of the very groups that Joly sought to rally to her cause. France’s head rabbi, Gilles Bernheim, was eager to disassociate his community from the proposal. Refusing to offer his own opinion, Bernheim quickly added that no Jewish institution played a role in Joly’s declaration. At the same time, Richard Prasquier, president of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions, made a great show of indifference: “Our country has a Catholic calendar: So what?” As for French Muslims, the head of the Great Mosque in Paris was the only one to confess his admiration for the proposal, but in the same breath he added that the law could not be easily enacted or implemented.

When the proposal itself was not immediately attacked, it was instead dismissed as a transparent effort by Joly to resurrect a floundering campaign. But the speed with which her idea was mauled or mocked reflects a deep malaise among the French, one that suggests it is time to move beyond the revolutionary ideal of a society of free and equal individuals for whom religious practice and identification remains a private affair. This ideological variant of “the same size fits all” is both obsolete and an obstacle to better relations among France’s religious groups.

In the late 19th century, following a bitter and centuries-old struggle between republican governments and the Catholic Church, the French Third Republic embraced the notion of laicité. The English word laicism only begins to convey the emotional and ideological power of the original French term. Laicité was, quite simply, the religion of the republican state. In place of Christian saints, the Republic offered secular saints, ranging from Voltaire to Victor Hugo, whose mortal remains are entombed at the Panthéon.

Other efforts to blot out France’s Catholic past were less successful. For example, in 1793 the First Republic simply tossed out the Gregorian calendar, replacing it with a revolutionary calendar based on the decimal system, including 10-day weeks and 10-hour days. Moreover, the traditional names of the months were replaced with naturalistic ones — Pluviose for the rainy days of January, Germinal for the spring month of April — and the saints’ days were bagged and given instead to the names of plants, vegetables, farm animals and occasional revolutionary exhortation.

By 1805, when Napoleon tore the calendar off France’s walls, he made official what public opinion had long before made a fact: The calendar was a massive flop. Furthermore, the vast majority of the French were, if not believers, at least nominal Catholics. Whether or not they prayed to a particular saint, they all recognized a day by his or her name — a habit they did not want to give up.

Even the Third Republic, in its own battle with a hostile church, did not try to replace the calendar. Instead, the republicans, many of whom were agnostic or atheist, used the schools as their pulpits to broadcast the gospel of laicité. Tensions came to a head in 1905, when the national assembly passed the law establishing the full separation of church and state.

The law has not changed, but the country has. France has always been a nation of immigrants. A century ago they hailed from other European countries shaped by Christianity. As for the tens of thousands of Jewish immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe, they were eager to leave behind their traditions and language for a republican religion chanted in French. They embraced, as historian Philip Nord noted, “the republic as a secular incarnation of values embedded in Jewish tradition.”

But all this is history. The struggle between Catholics and secularists is over: The old ideological stakes have faded in France’s new demographic dispensation. The country has become home to Europe’s largest Muslim population, and even its Jewish community has tilted to Sephardic from Ashkenazi. These new generations of Frenchmen and women are proudly republican, but no less proudly members of vibrant religious communities.

The struggle is now over France’s future. The nation has become multicultural — a fact that even its religious representatives seem terrified to acknowledge, much less ask the French state to do so. Marine Le Pen, leader of the extreme right-wing Front National, has transformed her party from a den for Catholic extremists into the defender of republican laicité. The move has poleaxed the mainstream parties and propelled Le Pen’s popularity: Polls reveal that she is now more or less tied with President Nicolas Sarkozy for second place.

Joly might be pleased to know that she is echoing a call made several years ago by the son of Polish Jews who immigrated to France. Jean-Marie Lustiger, who converted to Catholicism and became archbishop of Paris, asked: “Is there a republican religion that prohibits one from being a Catholic, a Protestant, a Jew, a Muslim — even a skeptic? The republican ideal of citizenship does not claim to be a substitute for religion.”

By following the lead of such citizens as Lustiger and Joly, perhaps France can regain its triple-A rating as a republic for the 21st century.

Robert Zaretsky is a professor of history at the Honors College at the University of Houston. His most recent book is “Albert Camus: Elements of a Life” (Cornell University Press, 2010).

Read more: http://www.forward.com/articles/149830/#ixzz1kDbd9wUs

Paul Rosenberg: Exposing Religious Fundamentalism in the US

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Pastors, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 7, 2011 by loonwatch

Exposing religious fundamentalism in the US

by Paul Rosenberg

With Representative Michele Bachmann’s victory in the Ames, Iowa straw poll, and Texas Governor Rick Perry’s triumphal entrance into the GOP presidential primary, there’s been a sudden spike of attention drawn to the extremist religious beliefs both candidates have been associated with – up to and including their belief in Christian dominionism. (In the Texas Observer, the New Yorker, and the Daily Beast, for example.) The responses of denial from both the religious right itself and from the centrist Beltway press have been so incongruous as to be laughable – if only the subject matter weren’t so deadly serious. Those responses need to be answered, but more importantly, we need to have the serious discussion they want to prevent.

For example, in an August 18 post, originally entitled, “Beware False Prophets who Fear Evangelicals”, Washington Post religion blogger Lisa Miller cited the three stories I just mentioned, and admitted, “The stories raise real concerns about the world views of two prospective Republican nominees”, then immediately reversed direction: “But their echo-chamber effect reignites old anxieties among liberals about evangelical Christians. Some on the left seem suspicious that a firm belief in Jesus equals a desire to take over the world.” Of course, she cited no examples to bolster this narrative-flipping claim. More importantly, she wrote not one more word about the real concerns she had just admitted.

Dominionism is not a myth

“What In Heaven’s Name Is A Dominionist?” Pat Robertson asked on his 700 Club TV show, one of several religious right figures to recently pretend there was nothing to the notion. Funny he should ask. In a 1984 speech in Dallas, Texas, he said:

“What do all of us do? We get ready to take dominion! We get ready to take dominion! It is all going to be ours – I’m talking about all of it. Everything that you would say is a good part of the secular world. Every means of communication, the news, the television, the radio, the cinema, the arts, the government, the finance – it’s going to be ours! God’s going to give it to His people. We should prepare to reign and rule with Jesus Christ.”

Furthermore, C Peter Wagner, the intellectual godfather of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), actually wrote a book called Dominion! in 2008. Chapter Three was entitled “Dominion Theology”. When pressed, Peter likes to pretend that his ideas are just garden-variety Christianity, based on Genesis 1:26, in which, before the fall, God gives Adam and Eve dominion over the natural world – a far cry from dominion over other people, who did not even exist at the time, as evangelical critics of this dominionist argument have repeatedly pointed out.

Dominionism is not new 

Dominionist ideas have circulated throughout the religious right for decades prior to Robertson’s 1984 speech. A primary source was the small but influential sect known as Christian Reconstructionism, founded by R J Rushdoony in the 1960s, which advocates replacing American law with Old Testament codes. Centrists like Miller make the mistake of thinking that the small size of Rushdoony’s core of true believers is the full extent of his influence. But this is utterly mistaken. As Michelle Goldberg wrote in Daily Beast, “Rushdoony pioneered the Christian homeschooling movement, as well as the revisionist history, ubiquitous on the religious right, that paints the US as a Christian nation founded on biblical principles. He consistently defended Southern slavery and contrasted it with the greater evils of socialism.”

A second source traces back to the roots of the Latter Rain movement of the late 1940s, long rejected by orthodox evangelicals because they contradicted scripture and denied primary agency to God – which is why they insist that Christians must actively establish church dominance over all of society, because God can’t do it alone.

The Latter Rain was denounced by the Assemblies of God – the largest American Pentecostal church – in 1949, not solely for dominionist ideology, but for a variety of related beliefs and practices. When similar teachings and practices re-emerged in the guise of the New Apostolic Reformation 50 years later, the Assemblies of God denounced them again in 2000.

This time, however, many Assemblies of God congregations have increasingly accepted the NAR influence. Sarah Palin’s long-time church in Wasilla is one such congregation. The most clear-cut example of NAR dominionism is the so-called “Seven Mountains Mandate”, which holds that dominionist Christians should control the whole world by infiltrating and dominating the “Seven Mountains” of culture: (1) Business; (2) Government; (3) Media; (4) Arts and Entertainment; (5) Education; (6) Family; and (7) Religion.

Dominionism is not a left-wing fantasy 

A number of authors made charges similar to or derived from Joe Carter, web editor of First Things, who wrote: “The term [“dominionism”] was coined in the 1980s by [sociologist Sara] Diamond and is never used outside liberal blogs and websites. No reputable scholars use the term for it is a meaningless neologism that Diamond concocted for her dissertation.”

However, at the same time Diamond was working on her dissertation – published as the book Spiritual Warfare in 1989 – evangelical writer/researcher Albert James Dager was taking similarly critical aim, though from a different direction. In 1986 and ’87, he published a multi-issue essay “Kingdom Theology” in the publication Media Spotlight. In that text he also used the terms “Kingdom Now” or “Dominion” Theology. In 1990, Dager, too, published a book, Vengeance Is Ours: The Church in Dominion.

While his main focus was doctrinal error and non-Christian practices and influences, Dager’s work traced dominionism back to the 1940s and even earlier. Many more have followed in his footsteps since then. If you Google the words “dominionism” and “heresy”, you’ll get more than half a million hits. It should be obvious to anyone that conventional conservative Christians have big problems with dominionism – if only the United States’ establishment media could figure out how to use Google.

Dominionism is not an imprecise catch-all term

Despite lingering definitional differences that are common with relatively new terminology, those who study dominionism and related phenomenon in a political framework have an increasingly common and precise terminology that most writers and researchers share. Researcher Chip Berlet of Political Research Associates provided a very useful guide, “The Christian Right, Dominionism, and Theocracy”, which addresses issues of terminology from several different perspectives – for example, between “generic dominionism” and specific dominion theologies.

Berlet also draws a distinction between “hard” and “soft” dominionists. “Soft Dominionists are Christian nationalists,” he writes. “They believe that Biblically-defined immorality and sin breed chaos and anarchy. They fear that America’s greatness as God’s chosen land has been undermined by liberal secular humanists, feminists, and homosexuals … Their vision has elements of theocracy, but they stop short of calling for supplanting the Constitution and Bill of Rights.” Hard Dominionists add something more to the mix: “They want the United States to be a Christian theocracy. For them the Constitution and Bill of Rights are merely addendums to Old Testament Biblical law.”

Rushdoony’s Christian Reconstructionists clearly fall into the hard dominionist camp. But the NAR seems to straddle the soft/hard division. On the one hand, they clearly do claim that conservative Christians are ordained to run the world, not just US society. Thus, the Seven Mountains Mandate. On the other hand, Wagner and others have argued that the Seven Mountains is compatible with democracy. The state of Hawaii shows how: Early in the 2010 election cycle, both the Republican and the Democratic frontrunners for governor were associated with the NAR. That changed when long-time Congressman Neil Abercrombie joined the race on the Democratic side, and eventually won the race handily. But for a while, the NAR came tantalisingly close to realising their dream, at least in one state – not just to win power, but to occupy all the possible paths to power.

What’s more, in a recent article at Talk2Action, Rachel Tabachnick draws attention to another hedge on Wagner’s part, quoting from Dominion! In a section entitled “Majority Rules”: “If a majority feels that heterosexual marriage is the best choice for a happy and prosperous society, those in the minority should agree to conform – not because they live in a theocracy, but because they live in a democracy. The most basic principle of democracy is that the majority, not the minority, rules and sets the ultimate norms for society.”

This, of course, is utterly false in a liberal democracy, such as the United States. Liberal democracies combine majority rule as a general governing principle with a framework of rights protecting individuals in political minorities from persecution, political repression, and the like. The fact that Wagner so utterly misunderstands the foundations of American democracy shows just how dangerous such “soft” dominionism can be. This same lesson can be drawn from Uganda as well, where several different strains of dominionist theology have combined to bring that nation to the verge of passing a law that will make homosexuality punishable by death. Such is the nature of illiberal dominionist “democracy”.

Europe’s bloody theocratic wars

This brings us, finally, to the serious discussions that dominionists and their enablers, like Miller, are trying to prevent. The first of those is about the very nature of American democracy. For nearly 200 years, Europe was torn apart by a series of religious wars and their bloody aftermath – the major reason that the United States was founded as a secular republic. We’re potentially on the verge of forgetting all that history and suffering through it again, just as we’re now suffering through forgetting the lessons of the Great Depression. Those centuries of war began with the German Peasants’ War of 1524-26, in which more than 100,000 died; continued through the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, which ended the Thirty Years War on the European continent; and lasted until the end of the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714). This was the bloody European history of religious intolerance and strife that many, if not most, American colonialists were fleeing from when they came to the New World.

It was also this bloody history that gave rise to the development of classical liberalism, affirming the individual right to religious liberty and replacing the top-down theocratic justification of the state with Locke’s concept of the bottom-up social contract, based on the consent of the governed. The ideas that Locke perfected took generations to develop. Religious tolerance, for example, began as simply a matter of pragmatism: unless people stopped killing each other for differing religious beliefs, war in Europe would never end.

But gradually, the idea took hold that tolerance was a positive good, and key to this new perspective was the recognition that torturing someone to change their beliefs could not produce the desired result of a genuine heartfelt conversion. Thus, the moral rejection of torture – another feature of classical liberalism – had its roots in the evolution of the idea of religious liberty. The idea of utterly forgetting the prolonged bloody history that the United States was born out of is no laughing matter.

The same could be said of the myth that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, with laws based on the Bible. Of course most Americans were Christians at the time, but the leading intellects were decidedly less so, much more influenced by Enlightenment thought. There were many, such as Jefferson, who were better described as Deists, who believed that God had created a rational universe, but did not intervene supernaturally thereafter. They deliberately used terms like “the Creator” and “Nature’s God” to affirm their distinctive, non-Christian view.

Moreover, God was not mentioned at all in the Constitution, and religion was only mentioned to exclude its influence, stating that no religious test should be required for office. Finally, US law was based on British common law, not the Bible. The Supreme Court itself is a common law court, following common law precedents and practices. And British common law traces back to Roman law, which first came to England centuries before Rome adopted the Christian religion.

Of course the intolerant religious right wants us to forget this. How else could they ever gain power, except through massive forgetting of who and what the United States really is? Not to mention who and what they are: the most fundamental enemies of the United States, who would, if they could, return us to the centuries of blood before the US was born, the nightmare out of which the United States awakened.

Theocratic thinking threatens the US today

There are very immediate consequences that flow from the theocratic mindset. You’ll note, for example, that the “Seven Mountains” of culture do not include science. That’s not because dominionists intend to leave science alone, but rather because they see no need to dominate what they can simply cut off, ignore and deny. If science tells them that homosexuality is an inborn trait, why fight that in the realm of science when politics, the media, religion and education offer much, much better places to fight? After all, who says that education has to be based on facts? The same holds true for evolution and global warming as well, not to mention the workings of the economy.

One rightwing denier of dominionist influence, Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson, even framed his attack as “An unholy war on the Tea Party, while another denier complained that instead of describing the Tea Party as a movement united around concern about big government, many journalists seem to be trying to redefine the colour red by overlaying religious intent and purpose on the movement.

Yet the dominionist connection to the Tea Party goes far beyond just the two candidacies of Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry. Ron Paul, whose extreme anti-government positions helped to fuel the emergence of the Tea Party, has much deeper dominionist connections than either of the two new darlings. During his first term in Congress, one of his aides was Gary North, Rushdoony’s son-in-law, and a leading Reconstructionist in his own right, who has written extensively on so-called “Biblical Capitalism”, an ideology profoundly at odds with traditional Biblical-based teachings on economic justice.

While libertarians once traced their descent from John Locke, and more recently from the deeply anti-Christian Ayn Rand, Reconstructionism represents an increasingly important foundation for their views. A recently released sociology study, “Cultures of the Tea Party”, found that Tea Party supporters are characterised by four dispositions: “authoritarianism, ontological insecurity, libertarianism, and nativism”. Since traditional libertarianism was purportedly the opposite of authoritarianism, this highlights how radically libertarianism has changed – a conclusion that’s echoed by the 2011 Pew Reaserch Political Typology Poll, which found that religious and economic conservatives had completely merged into one single group since 2006 and all previous polling.

What this means in the long run is far from clear. But it strongly suggests a solidfying outlook with deep Reconstructionist sympathies that actually looks at government failure to deal with major issues, such as restoring the economy, as a positive good. If faith in American institutions collapses entirely, then who wouldn’t give Biblical law a shot? The more loudly such people proclaim themselves patriots, the more loudly they cheer for US collapse. It’s not just Obama they want to fail. It’s the very idea of America.

Paul Rosenberg is the Senior Editor of Random Lengths News, a bi-weekly alternative community newsletter.

You can follow Paul on twitter @PaulHRosenberg

France plans nation-wide Islam and secularism debate

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , on February 17, 2011 by loonwatch

Maybe its time for Freedom fries again?

France plans nation-wide Islam and secularism debate

(Reuters)

France’s governing party plans to launch a national debate on the role of Islam and respect for French secularism among Muslims here, two issues emerging as major themes for the presidential election due next year.  Jean-François Copé, secretary general of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP party, said the debate would examine issues such as the financing and building of mosques, the contents of Friday sermons and the education of the imams delivering them.

The announcement, coming after a meeting of UMP legislators with Sarkozy on Wednesday, follows the president’s declaration last week that multiculturalism had failed in France. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron have made similar statements in recent months that were also seen as aimed at Muslim minorities there. France’s five-million strong Muslim minority is Europe’s largest.

Copé said the debate, due to start in early April, would ask “how to organise religious practice so that it is compatible in our country with the rules of our secular republic.”

UMP parliamentarians said Sarkozy told them they had to lead this debate to ensure it stays under control. The far-right National Front, reinvigorated with its new leader Marine Le Pen, has recently begun a campaign criticising Muslims here.

“Our party, and then parliament, must take on this subject,” they quoted Sarkozy as saying. “I don’t want prayers in the streets, or calls to prayer. We had a debate on the burqa and that was a good thing. We need to agree in principle about the place of religion in 2011.”

France has sought to keep religion out of the public sphere since it officially separated the Catholic Church and the state in 1905. The growth of a Muslim minority in recent decades has posed new challenges that lead to sometimes heated debates. The government banned headscarves in state schools in 2004 and outlawed full face veils in public last year. But there are no rules about halal meals in schools, for example, or whether Muslims can pray in the streets outside an overcrowded mosque.

The French government held a country-wide debate on national identity in 2009-2010 that preceded the full face veil ban. Many Muslims criticised the debate, saying it turned into a forum to stigmatise them and let people air biased views about Islam.

Marine Le Pen, daughter of National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, stole a march on the UMP in December when she compared Muslims praying in the streets to the wartime Nazi occupation. “Marine Le Pen is getting ratings higher than her father, so at 18 months before the presidential election, you can see why it’s getting urgent (for the UMP) to debate the place of Muslims in France and how they practice their religion,” said RTL radio commentator Marie-Bénédicte Allaire.

When journalists asked Copé if the UMP’s Islam debate would only give credence to Le Pen’s campaign, he said: “Marine Le Pen highlights problems but doesn’t work too much on solutions.”Copé said the UMP would invite “numerous civil and religious personalities (for) broad debates about this absolutely major question. It would be wrong not to deal with this.”

According to the daily Le Figaro, Sarkozy asked the UMP deputies for concrete suggestions within a few months for solving disputed issues about religion in the public sphere.

According to a 2009 Gallup poll, 80 percent of French Muslims said they were loyal to France, but 56 percent of the general public doubted their Muslim neighbours were loyal to the country.

 

French Lower House of Parliament Vote to Ban Face Veil

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 13, 2010 by loonwatch

The latest development in the face veil ban legislation in France.

French MPs vote to ban Islamic full veil in public

France’s lower house of parliament has overwhelmingly approved a bill that would ban wearing the Islamic full veil in public.

There were 335 votes for the bill and only one against in the 557-seat National Assembly.

It must now be ratified by the Senate in September to become law.

The ban has strong public support but critics point out that only a tiny minority of French Muslims wear the full veil.

Many of the opposition Socialists, who originally wanted the ban limited only to public buildings, abstained from voting after coming under pressure from feminist supporters of the bill.

President Nicolas Sarkozy has backed the ban as part of a wider debate on French identity but critics say the government is pandering to far-right voters.

After the vote, Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said it was a victory for democracy and for French values.

“Values of freedom against all the oppressions which try to humiliate individuals; values of equality between men and women, against those who push for inequality and injustice.”

The vote is being closely watched in other countries, the BBC’s Christian Fraser reports from the French capital Paris.

Spain and Belgium are debating similar legislation, and with such large-scale immigration in the past 20 or 30 years, identity has become a popular theme across Europe, our correspondent says.

‘Open-faced democracy’

The bill would make it illegal to wear garments such as the niqab or burka, which incorporate a full-face veil, anywhere in public.

It envisages fines of 150 euros (£119) for women who break the law and 30,000 euros and a one-year jail term for men who force their wives to wear the burka.

The niqab and burka are widely seen in France as threats to women’s rights and the secular nature of the state.

“Democracy thrives when it is open-faced,” Ms Alliot-Marie told the National Assembly when she presented the bill last week.

She stressed the bill, which makes no reference to Islam or veils, was not aimed at “stigmatising or singling out a religion”.

Berengere Poletti, an MP from Mr Sarkozy’s centre-right UMP party, said women in full veils wore “a sign of alienation on their faces” and had to be “liberated”.

Andre Gerin of the Communist opposition compared the veil to “a walking coffin, a muzzle”.

‘Fear of foreigners’

The bill is also seen as a touchstone for the Sarkozy administration’s policy of integration. It is grappling with disaffected immigrant communities as it seeks to prevent a repeat of the mass unrest of 2005 on run-down French housing estates.

PATH TO VEIL BAN

But critics point to government studies showing that many women do not fit the stereotype of marginalised, oppressed women.

There are estimated to be only about 2,000 women wearing the full veil in France though the bill is opposed by many of France’s five million Muslims.

Mohammed Moussaoui, the head of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, a government advisory body, has supported taking steps to discourage women from wearing the full veil but has said a legal ban would stigmatise a vulnerable group.

Jean Glavany, a Socialist MP, said he opposed the ban on the grounds that it was “nothing more than the fear of those who are different, who come from abroad, who aren’t like us, who don’t share our values”.

The Council of State, France’s highest administrative body, warned in March that the law could be found unconstitutional.

If the bill passes the Senate in September, it will be sent immediately to France’s Constitutional Council watchdog for a ruling.

Another challenge is possible at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, where decisions are binding.

In another development, a French businessman, Rachid Nekkaz, said he would set up a 1m-euro fund to help women pay fines imposed under the new law.

A ban in the street would violate constitutional principles, he argued.