France’s Constitutional Council has approved a controversial ‘anti-separatism’ bill, upholding its main provisions. The legislation, which drew criticism on various points, has been seen as a tool against hard-line Islamists.
The ruling on the legislation, officially known as the “Bill confirming respect for the principles of the Republic,” was announced by France’s top court on Friday. The judicial body upheld the legislation as a whole, confirming the constitutionality of its main provisions.
The ruling was cheered by the legislation’s main sponsor, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, who said the court’s decision was “excellent news” for the whole republic.
“This text wanted by Emmanuel Macron will make it possible to fight, with force, thanks to new weapons, against those who want to undermine secularism, our common good,” the minister tweeted.
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However, the Constitutional Council shot down several minor provisions introduced under the legislation, chiefly the power to forcibly suspend associations that are subject to a dissolution procedure, as this would unnecessarily infringe on freedom of association. The court also dismissed a provision enabling the authorities to refuse the renewal of a residence permit to a foreigner who had shown a rejection of the principles of the French republic. The court said the bill did not provide a mechanism of “sufficient precision” for non-renewals on such grounds.
The legislation, adopted by the country’s National Assembly on July 23, has been the subject of several months of heated debate. With measures including providing new tools to fight online hatred, expanding government control over religious organizations, and severely restricting home-schooling to prevent religious indoctrination, the legislation has been harshly criticized as going against what it is designed to protect – France’s own liberal values.
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At the same time, it has also been widely regarded as anti-Muslim in its essence. It effectively forces Muslim parents to send their children to public schools where religious symbols and garments are already prohibited. The legislation also strictly regulates donations that religious organizations can receive from abroad, with sums above €10,000 being made subject to mandatory declaration.
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