America’s Founders had it right with the First Amendment: government should refrain from establishing a state religion while respecting the right of individuals to worship as they please. The two goals are not mutually exclusive, and good policy flows from these principles. A third of the Muslim terrorist plots disrupted within the United States are done so with tips from the Muslim community. And America continues to peacefully assimilate immigrants from all parts of the world, a testament to the wisdom of keeping government from telling its citizens how to live.
The French see things differently. The text of the statute carefully avoids mentioning religion, but is clearly meant to target Muslims. Violators face a small fine or citizenship classes and those who force others to wear veils face a year in jail and a $40,000 fine. Headscarves have been banned in French public schools since 2004, and the legislature voted the veil restriction into place by a large margin. Polls continue to show high public approval of the new law.