Paris, January 15, 2004 ( – French Catholics say militant secularists have turned their sights on outward signs of Christian belief as a debate over the wearing of religious symbols in schools expands. 

Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger of Paris said he had received dozens of reports from around the country that Catholic girls have been harassed for wearing a cross and that nuns have been criticized for wearing their habits in public. The cardinal predicted to France-Inter radio that the harassment was “just the beginning of a long crisis.” 

The harassment began after a new law was proposed that would ban the wearing of Muslim veils, Jewish skullcaps, and “ostentatious” crosses in schools. Some legislators want to expand the ban to include civil servants. Many left-wing Frenchmen boost the idea of absolute secularism and separation of church and state to include any display of religious belief in public. 

“At a university in Paris, a woman wearing a small cross had it torn off by other students,” Cardinal Lustiger said. “A nun who was crossing a street in the garb of her religious order was told by passers-by: ‘You shouldn’t go out in your habit’. I could tell you dozens of other cases the bishops have reported.” 

The cardinal warned that “This law, with all its excesses, risks opening up a war of religions… The politicians should realize what they are stirring up.”


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