one of the core principles on which the French Republic is founded. It is essentially the rock on which their
modern culture is founded. Reaching back
to the Revolution of 1789, and in its modern form stemming from 1905, it is in Article
1 of the French Constitution of 1958 and as such incredibly important if you
want to understand France, and why Christmas Nativity sets are so insulting.
So what is
It is a word which has no proper definition in English. In essence it means both the separation of
church from state, and the separation of private religion and public
lives. It is essentially an idea to
protect freedom of religion and freedom of thought in France from state attack.
the law as we know it today was introduced in 1905, but the history goes back
many years before that, to the French Revolution. Here, when the Revolutionaries felt that the
Catholics were both too powerful and also repressing other religions (going
against both revolution itself and its high-minded ideals), they attempted to
force the Catholics to pledge allegiance to the “delegates of the people” in
return for state recognition. This was
hated by the Church and many of the more heavily Catholic areas of the country,
leading to civil war in some of these parts of the country. Napoleon 1st then signed an
agreement with the Vatican. France would
reinstate Catholicism as the state religion and take priests and bishops etc.
into state pay. He did this to, at the
end of the day, keep France peaceful.
1905 this agreement was breaking down.
Some of the clergy wished to re-empower themselves and return to their
pre-revolution status and stopping the practice of all other faiths. It was at this point that the famous law that
forms the basis of Laïcité today was passed.
The law stated that the government of France would recognise “no
religious cult” and would not employ nor subsidise any either. This law also continued the secularisation of
schools, although Laïque, the idea of no religious
education, had already been established.
Basically, what it did was enforce the separation of state and church
and started the process of public life vs private religion.
me onto some of the controversy to do with Laïcité. In France people are very concerned with
religious imagery or making distinctions between people based on their
religion, such as treating them differently.
Whilst this has not been such a problem in the past when France was
basically a Christian country and it was simply divisions between Protestants
and Catholics (even though in French colonies that were mostly Muslim a
different system was operated as it respected the cultural differences that
mainland France didn’t feel) it became a problem more recently with the growing
Muslim community. Cultural differences
that the French Colonies noticed have been crushed, especially in public places
such as schools. Some examples of this
are: no showing of religious symbols such as a cross, especially
controversially (maybe expand on this in the talk) the banning of Burqas: a
case where a mayor got rid of non-pork meals for Muslims, in an effort not to
treat them differently: Muslims in general as the most different religion have
been singled out by the system, with their way of life, clothing and symbols of
their faith attacked, even though the attacks are coming from high-minded
ideals (talk about third gen. Islamic immigrants from Algeria etc. and the
And now an
example of how French culture in general has been affected to leave you
with. I mentioned at the beginning why public
Nativity sets are frowned upon, and it comes back to this subject. People frown upon religion being forced on
others, so dislike public displays of religion, such as Nativity sets, or even
the sending of Christmas cards. This is just one of the many unanticipated
results of this very French set of laws.
And on that
happy note, my presentation ends.