On the surface, the new law is aimed at protecting France’s secular culture and the strict division between church and state. But the public debate has spread to much broader issues including immigration, women’s rights, education and concerns about Islamic fundamentalism. “This issue over the veil has become a flash point for so many tensions,” said Sharon Gracen, head of the Office of the Congregation at the American Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Paris.
The bill is expected to pass the 577-seat assembly in a vote next Tuesday. The Senate will debate the proposal in March. If passed, it would become law before school begins in September. “I would hope they wouldn’t rush the legislation through,” Gracen said. She said there could be “unintended consequences.”0