Ever since the French banned conspicuous religious symbols from state schools in 2004, the country has grappled with the right balance between religious freedom and enforcement of its strict secular rules. On June 25th the scales tilted again after a landmark ruling by the top appeals court that a private day-care firm was within its rights when it fired a woman for wearing a Muslim headscarf.

In 2008 Fatima Afif was sacked from her job at Baby-loup, a private nursery in the western suburbs of Paris, for wearing an Islamic head-covering. She took her case to court, claiming discrimination and infringement of religious freedom. In 2013, after three years of legal procedure, a high-level court ruled in her favour. It judged that the nursery was a private enterprise, not a public service, and that Ms Afif's sacking did indeed constitute discrimination on the ground of religious belief.

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