Following the attack in Nice, France on July 14 and the subsequent regulation of religious liberties, the Council of State, the highest court in France, lifted the ban on burkinis in the French town Villeneuve-Loubet on Friday after it concluded that the ban violated religious freedom and freedom of movement.
The burkini, a portmanteau combining “burka” and “bikini,” is a bathing suit that meets the standards of modesty for Islamic women. Villeneuve-Loubet, along with at least 15 other French resort towns, banned the burkini in response to terror concerns after the Nice attacks, according to CNN. On Wednesday, photos of armed police on the beaches of Nice enforcing the ban via fines began circulating the Internet, sparking global criticism and response from the French government.
According to the Washington Post, the lift of the burkini ban by the Council of State has set a precedent that will likely result in the overturning of the ban in other towns. The burkini ban in Cannes was overturned by a Nice court on Tuesday, and several local courts are in the process of hearing similar cases in other municipalities.
The burkini is not the first restriction concerning freedom of religion in France, as the government had previously banned Muslim headscarves and “other conspicuous religious symbols” in French schools. In 2004 and 2011, wearing the burqa in public became a reprehensible act with a fine up to $150, according to CNN.
Although such restrictions on civil freedoms are taken by governments when there is a danger to national security, there is always the question of what is imperative and what is excessive. Amy Black, professor of political science at Wheaton College, responded that based on her understanding of the issue, “These policies are troubling … Unless officials have strong and credible evidence that supports the need for such bans, it seems to be a strong overreach in governmental power.”
For people of faith, religion is not confined to a building or to one day of worship; it is a lifestyle. Wheaton students seeking to live out their faith can empathize with other people of faith who face governmental roadblocks to putting their religion into practice.
Black also described what we, as a Christian community, should do in light of a situation concerning religious freedom. “As Christians, we should do what we can to uphold and support religious liberty rights for all people, regardless of religion,” Black said.