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Quebec bans some public servants from wearing religious clothing, symbols

By Danielle Haynes
Quebec bans some public servants from wearing religious clothing, symbols
Quebec Premier Francois Legault said the legislation was necessary to ensure separation of church and state.  File Photo by Ian Langsdon/EPA-EFE

June 17 (UPI) -- The government of the Canadian province of Quebec passed legislation banning certain public employees, including teachers and judges, from wearing any religious symbolism.

The center-right-led government voted 73-35 to approve the bill Sunday night.

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The ban prevents teachers, police officers, government lawyers, judges and other public servants in a position of authority from wearing "clothing, symbol, jewelry, ornament, accessory or headgear that is worn in connection with a religious conviction or belief and can reasonably be considered as referring to a religious affiliation," the text of the law says.

That includes items such as Christian crosses, Muslim headscarves, Jewish yarmulkes and Sikh turbans. Public employees who already wear such items are grandfathered in, but they cannot be promoted if they continue to wear the items.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault said the legislation was necessary to ensure separation of church and state.

Immigration Minister Jolin-Barrette said polls show most residents of the province support such a ban.

"I feel like saying finally, finally, Quebecers have been heard and listened to," he said. "Finally, a government that had the courage to act."

Supporters of the bill added an amendment to allow inspectors to ensure the law is being followed and hand down punishments if not.

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Critics of the law say it effectively bans Muslims, Sikhs and Jewish people from holding positions of authority in the Quebecois government. Liberal member Marc Tanguay said the amendment to allow enforcement of the ban would result in a "secularism police."

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