France’s far-right National Front party has been accused of undermining religious freedom after it banned state schools from serving kosher and halal food in the 11 town councils it now controls.
Party leader Marine Le Pen declared school canteens should not cater for religious restrictions on food, in line with France’s secular values.
Alternatives to pork will also be banned on days when pork is on the school menu in NF-run councils, she said.
Ms Le Pen — whose father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, described the Holocaust as a “mere detail of history” — said: “We will not accept any religious demands in school menus. There is no reason for religion to enter the public sphere, that’s the law.”
Her party inflicted heavy defeats on France’s ruling socialists in the local elections 10 days ago, winning 1,400 council seats nationwide and taking control of 11 councils.
Ms Le Pen’s ruling on “secular” school dinners has sparked fury among Jewish, Muslim and anti-racism groups.
Rabbi Menachem Margolin, general director of the European Jewish Association, condemned the action as a “vicious call that undermines religious freedom in France”.
France’s Jewish umbrella group, Crif, called the ruling “a cover-up for religious hatred. This has nothing to do with secularism. It is nothing more than the targeting of Jews and Muslims.”
The group SOS Racisme said in a statement: “Non-pork menus have existed for centuries. This is a means by the extreme right, while hiding behind secularism, to blatantly attack France’s Jewish and Muslim communities.”
In the eastern town of Hayanges, NF mayor Fabien Engelmann has proposed a “Pork Fest” to “liven up” the town.
Demonstrations are now expected across France when schools return after the Easter holidays in two weeks’ time.