Religious Symbol & Face-Covering Bans in Other Countries

Quebec Bill 21 is only one of many such laws

2021-12-26, Updated 2021-12-27

What opponents of Bill 21 never talk about: the many laws in other countries which stipulate similar bans, but often stronger, more extensive ones.

Sommaire en français Ce dont les opposants à la Loi 21 ne parlent jamais : les nombreuses lois dans d’autres pays qui prévoient des interdictions similaires, mais souvent plus fortes, plus étendues. La compilation des données est disponible en français : Lois restreignant les couvre-visage et les signes religieux

Many other countries have laws similar to Bill 21, but often stronger. For example:

  • Religious symbols are banned for public servants in France, in Geneva and in two “Länder” of Germany. In particular, the Republic and Canton of Geneva, Switzerland bans religious symbols throughout the civil service, but with the proviso that it applies when the employee is in contact with the public.
  • Religious symbols are banned in public schools in France, parts of Belgium and in Pennsylvania.
  • Face-coverings are banned in public in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Chad, Denmark, Egypt, France, Morocco, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, etc. Morocco also bans the manufacture and sale of the burqa.
  • Face-coverings are banned in public services (employees and users, as in Quebec) in Italy [Lombardy], Malaysia, Netherlands and Tunisia.
  • Face-coverings are banned for public servants in Algeria and Germany.

When it comes to restrictions on religious symbols and/or face-coverings, there are two extreme positions:

  1. Ban them everywhere. I have only known one person who held such a draconian view.
  2. Ban them nowhere. This extremist position is apparently held by most opponents of Quebec Bill 21 (because they rarely specify any alternative, just a complete repeal).

A reasonable position is somewhere in between these two extremes: i.e. ban religious symbols (for secular reasons) and face-coverings (for reasons of security, identification, communication and women’s rights) in contexts where a ban will not unduely encroach upon some people’s freedoms while it protects others’ freedoms. That is precisely what Bill 21 does, although it is a little too weak and needs to be extended to the entire civil service.

Secularists choose a position somewhere midway between the two extremes, not because it is midway (that would be just the Fallacy of the Mean) but because in this situation it maximizes human rights, whereas the two extremes threaten such rights. Banning religious symbols worn by civil servants while on the job extends everyone’s freedom from religion, while putting only a small, well-circumscribed restriction on freedom of religious expression (i.e. religious practice) for State employees. Such a ban puts no restriction whatsoever on freedom of religious belief. In other words, it treats religious expression similar to how political expression is treated: with some restriction in the workplace.

The extremist position (2) holds that any ban is an encroachment on personal freedoms. This is libertarianism on steroids and is unacceptable because it gives absolute freedom to the wearer while completely neglecting the rights of others.

By adopting Bill 21 in June of 2019, Quebec joined the many countries listed above. In reaction, the arrogance and ignorance of Canadian anti-secularists have been infinite. Will they now claim that all those countries are populated or controlled by Christian supremacists with nefarious motives?

The page Laws Restricting Face-Coverings and Religious Symbols provides a compilation with full details. I update it periodically. Please let me know if you find any errors or omissions. (Links to relevant on-line articles are helpful. Links to actual legislation are even better.)


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One thought on “Religious Symbol & Face-Covering Bans in Other Countries”

  1. L’un des nombreux reproches que les opposants font à la Loi 21 est que cette loi serait “raciste”, avec le non-dit, qui est que les supporteurs de la Loi sont “racistes”. Alors est ce que les autres pays qui ont adopté des lois plus restrictives que la Loi 21 sont des pays racistes? Et à quand les dénonciations? Nous attendons toujours les réactions de Trudeau, Singh et cie.

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