If pork is on the menu, French mayors like Gilles Platret want students to eat it.
As British schools increasingly ban pork, the opposite approach is gaining traction in France. Mayor Gilles Platret of Chalon-sur-Saône, a town in Burgundy, recently told parents that students who avoid pork for religious reasons will no longer be offered an alternative meat dish starting in September. This signals a "return to the principles of secularism," said Platret, a member of Nicolas Sarkozy's center-right Union for a Popular Movement.
Sarkozy, the former French president, defended the much-criticized stance, asserting that "if you want your children to observe dietary habits based on religion, then you should choose private religious education." Officials in Arveyres and Sargé-lès-Le Mans previously announced similar changes in their cafeterias, and Marine Le Pen pledged that substitute meals would be pulled from schools in towns won by her nationalist party in last year's local elections.
Putting aside the issue of whether such rules are productive or merely vindictive, the hard feelings underscore how dependence on government services exacerbates cultural strife. The more people expect from government, the more they expect it to conform to their own values.
Arguments about too much or too little accommodation are the inevitable outcome. If you want something done right, do it yourself — advice that applies equally well to those who consume pork and those who reject it. What is the French term for "brown-bag lunch"?
David J. Rusin is a research fellow at Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.