Mon Mar 6, 5:52 PM ET
France’s highest administrative body ruled Monday that Sikhs must remove their turbans for driver’s license photos, calling it a question of public security and not a restriction on freedom of religion.
The Council of State’s ruling reversed its own decision in December in favor of Shingara Mann Singh, a French citizen who refused to take off his turban for a license photo in 2004.
The case gained attention amid tensions between France’s religious minorities and the government over a law banning conspicuous religious signs in public schools, aimed at Islamic headscarves.
For Sikhs, the turban is an article of faith.
Singh took his case to the Council of State, which ruled in December that he could wear his turban because a ban on covering the head in official photos came from the Interior Ministry, not the Transport Ministry. The council said a Transport Ministry order concerning identity photos was not precise enough to apply to Singh’s license.
The following day, the Transport Ministry changed its order, specifically saying that the Interior Ministry ban was applicable on driver’s licenses.
The case went back to the Council of State, which ruled Monday that Singh must take his turban off for the photo.
The council said the requirement did not trample on religious freedoms but was necessary for “the interests of public security and protection of order.”
Singh’s lawyer, Patrice Spinosi, has said they could take the case to other tribunals, such as the European Court of Human Rights.
The small, quiet Sikh community in France began making its voice heard after France banned religious signs in public schools in 2004, which forced Sikh students to remove turbans or be expelled.
Source: AP via Yahoo! News