A far-right political leader in France has announced that her party will end kosher and halal school lunch alternatives in the 11 towns it controls. Marine Le Pen of the National Front says the accommodations are counter to France’s secular nature.
“We will not accept any religious demands in school menus,” Le Pen told RTL radio. “There is no reason for religion to enter the public sphere, that’s the law.”
That means that schools will not offer chicken, beef, or even a vegetarian option on days when pork is served.
Le Pen, who took over leadership of the party from her father in 2011, has fought the NF’s image as a racist party, claiming instead to be nationalist, protectionist, and strict on law and order. But opposition to immigration is their signature issue, and focus is mostly on non-European and Muslim immigrants.
The National Front won control of 11 towns and over 1,400 municipal seats nationwide in local elections held recently. It has called the victory a sign that it is now the third major political power in the country, behind the ruling Socialists and mainstream conservatives.
France’s government often values secularism, but the nation is overwhelmingly Catholic. Its five-million-strong Muslim minority has become more visible and vocal in recent years; and the country has a complicated relationship with its Jewish population, going back at least to the Dreyfuss Affair.
Kosher and Halal-observant Europeans have already recently faced challenges such as slaughter bans (based on animal rights issues) in Poland and Denmark, and similar proposals in the UK.