Nonetheless, it is a very different proposal than the banning of conspicuous religious signs, which takes place only in govermental buildings. The spirit is different, especially when you know that Burqas are an extremely rare occurence in France, and that this law should concern less than one hundred women in our entire national territory. It's almost anecdotal.
You're not completely right. But I'm not that surprised, considering the distorted facts and biases the American press has spread over this bill2.) Enforcing a secular (which in France seems to mean "irreligious" rather than representing a lack of state bias or favoritism regarding an individual's religious beliefs or lack thereof) atmosphere is simply not a good enough reason, and essentially amounts to state bias against religiosity in any form. Furthermore, it was the issue of headscarves that led to such an all-encompassing ban on public displays of religious belief; the bias against non-Muslim displays of religiosity is incidental face-saving, the ban originated with Muslims in mind.
(and the bias continues: just look at the English article on wikipedia regarding this law, an article which is a real jumble of incoherent or false facts. How can you (wrongly) pretend that "The proposed ban was one of the most controversial political issues in France for several decades, with both sides of the political spectrum being split on the issue", when you (rightfully) admit a few lines later that "Polls suggest that a large majority of the French favour the ban (78%)", and that "all major parties supported the law"?).
The 1905 law already made the banning of conspicuous religious symbols quite clear.
And somehow, after decades of feuds with the Catholic church, it was more or less enforced, even if it took time.
It's only during the 90'es that issues with radical Muslims suddenly happened. And it led to the current bill, which is not a creation ex nihilo, but rather a kind of reminder of the true meaning of the 1905 law, especially for those who tried to challenge or attack it.
It aimed to make things clearer, and to facilitate the work of the judges and government officials who were harassed with thousands of derogatory demands from those radical minority groups.
Remember that a majority of French Muslim women approved this bill! Some even asked for it!
I fear you are confusing your own history (the one from the USA) with general history.As for the rest, some rights and freedoms are more important than others; for example, freedom of religion and freedom of speech are among a select group of rights that make the security of all other rights possible, and are therefore objectively (as well as subjectively, IMO) more important than the right to gamble, smoke pot or buy alcohol on Sundays (though such restrictions are indeed quite aggravating!). And for the record, since WWII Western Europe has until recently generally had a better record on certain other types of rights (most notably equality under the law) than my country....but Europe is simply deficient when in comes to this very important issue, and in modern times such violations do not qualify as necessary evils.
Your nation has been founded by religious refugees. It's not the same story everywhere. Actually, from a French point of view, I'd say your entire nation is deeply biased whenever the subject is religion: it's deeply embedded within your founding values, exactly the same way laicite has been one of the founding values of the French Republic.
But do you really think France, UK or Germany (etc...) are less democratic than the US, despite their different interpretations?