Can a lawyer wear the Islamic veil? Thorny debate within the Lyon Bar

The bar of Lyon has started a discreet internal consultation, to know whether to authorize or prohibit a lawyer from wearing the Islamic veil. A long meeting was held on the subject this Thursday, November 17, at the Bar Association.

This question, which is sensitive to say the least, opens a lively debate among legal professionals, between those who are viscerally attached to the uniformity of the lawyer’s dress, a symbolic guarantee of equality, and those who would accept clothing signs with connotations, in the name of religious freedom.

Authorize or prohibit religious symbols at the Lyon Bar?

Also, the Lyon Bar Association is wondering whether or not to modify its rules of procedure, in order to specify the compatibility of clothing with the lawyer’s robe. With two options: the authorization or prohibition of any religious sign while wearing the lawyer’s robe, including the Islamic veil.

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After consultation, an opinion should be submitted to the Bar Council, with a view to a possible modification of the internal regulations of the Lyon Bar Association. This opinion should also go back to the Conseil national des barreaux (CNB), which has taken up this question, wondering about the possibility of proposing general rules of procedure which are common to all the bars of France.

Neutrality of the lawyer’s dress

This internal debate was born out of a controversy that erupted in the North, during a swearing-in ceremony, in 2018. A young Muslim lawyer had wanted to wear the Islamic veil for the ceremony.

The bar refused and modified its rules of procedure in 2019, formally prohibiting all religious symbols, and even decorations, on the lawyer’s robe, in the name of the neutrality of principle that the robe symbolizes in the exercise of the profession of lawyer. ‘lawyer.

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The young postulant and her lawyer challenged before the Douai Court of Appeal, denouncing discrimination, in the name of religious freedom, but the Court of Cassation validated the position of the Lille Bar, in a judgment of March 2. Believing that the lawyer’s robe was incompatible with any sign “Ostensibly manifesting a religious, philosophical, community or political affiliation or opinion”.

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