French nun banned from rest home because of veil

A 70-year old French nun has been banned from living in a rest home because it cited a strict ban on religious garb and “ostentatious” signs of religion.

The home said she must remove her religious habit if she was to live at the publicly-funded residence.

Although the nun’s application to live at the home was accepted earlier this year, it was on the condition she did not wear her religious habit.

The retirement home’s letter to the nun said:

“Within our homes, our residents may have preferences and beliefs and these should be respected … with regard to secularism, all ostentatious signs of belonging to a religious community cannot be accepted in order to guarantee everyone’s tranquility.”

“Religion is a private matter and must remain so.”

She was told she could wear a cross so long as it was discreet.

The nun then declined the offer.

Alain Chrétien, who is the mayor of Vesoul in the Haute-Saône region where the nun lives, has apologized to her and offered to help her find public housing.

He says the “error of judgment is very regrettable”.

In his opinion, the retirement home’s staff have made a “big blunder”.

He says state employees are sometimes “paralyzed” by issues of secularism, and is concerned that “everyone has their own definition” of what it means.

The local parish priest cited her case in his monthly newsletter, saying the rest home’s actions seemed “anti-Christian.”

“(O)ur ears are being filled with principles of secularism that are not understood,” he wrote.

“Old demons, mismanaged fears are blocking situations.”

“What is secularism? It means giving everyone the opportunity to live their faith without harming anyone.”

“I don’t think that a nun’s veil can harm, because it’s not a sign of submission but of consecration.”

Laïcité, the French version of secularism, has been enforced by law since 1905.

While originally intended to regulate Catholicism in public life and establish strict state secularism, its principles in recent decades have been applied to Muslim women who wear hijabs or other religious garb in public.

The Observatory of Secularism says the rules on religious garb are supposed to apply only to state employees and public servants during work hours.

The nun’s treatment was an example of “a wrong interpretation of laïcité,” he says.


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