This is a case study on the kinds of values that were invoked in the parliamentary debates in 2009 on whether or not Danish judges and Norwegian policewomen should be allowed to wear veils for religious reasons in their line of duty. The case marks a shift and the limits of the until-then fairly liberal religious accommodation by the two states. Despite the high esteem of gender equality in Denmark and Norway, gender values are less referred to in these debates and the most common values are instead secularism, secular progress and neutrality or, more explicitly, the impartiality and credibility of the state. The findings are understood as a sign of the adaptive character of symbolic politics to focus on different values depending on the issue, as the underlying purpose is to distinguish between the majority population and (religious) minorities through the use of a narrative of secular progress. A secularism based on such narrative is used to express a clash between values associated with secularity, freedom and modernity and religion, oppression and tradition, here symbolised by the wearing of veils.