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Secularity and Religious Symbols


Minister of Education (Lionel Jospin): advice of the State Council. State Council: ... Positivism. Religions as former states of human evolution. Rousseau ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Secularity and Religious Symbols

Secularity and Religious Symbols
Xavier Landes University of Montreal University
of Paris IV Sorbonne
  • First Headscarve Cases (1989 1993-1994)
  • Laïcité Republicanism
  • The  Last  Case (2003-2004)
  • Two Views on State Neutrality

1989 Case
  • Background (September)
  • Three young girls in Creil
  • Refused to school by the Director
  • Official replies (September - December)
  • Minister of Education (Lionel Jospin) advice of
    the State Council
  • State Council Decision of November 1989
  •  The wearing of headscarves is not inconsistent
    with any value of the Laïque and Republican
  • The directors should negotiate in each case
  • Lionel Jospin Circular of December 1989

Jospins Circular
  • General dispositions
  • Headscarves are not in opposite with the Laïcité
  • Proselytism, provocation and propaganda are not
    allowed in schools
  • School directors have to
  • Evaluate the situation
  • Negotiate with young women
  • Take the appropriate decision

  • Some schools have added to their internal rule
    that ALL religious symbols are prohibited
  • Decision of the State Council in November 1992 on
    cancelling an exclusion
  • Directors and professors are left without any
    clear rules to settle the cases
  • Hard criticism from politicians and intellectuals
  • Opposition between French and Anglo-Saxon models

 In France, the National project and the
Republican project are gathered in a certain idea
of citizenship. This French idea of the Nation
and the Republic shows, by nature, respect to all
beliefs, especially religious, and political
beliefs and cultural traditions. But it excludes
that the Nation may split into separated
communities, indifferent to each other, ruled by
their own rules and laws, involved in a simple
coexistence. The Nation is not only a group of
citizens who bear individual rigths. It is a
community of fate.  (Bayrous Circular -
September 1994)
Problems remain the same
  • First Headscarve Cases (1989 1993-1994)
  • Laïcité Republicanism
  • The  Last  Case (2003-2004)
  • Two Views on State Neutrality

Republicanism and Republic
A set of political and philosophical
justifications in favor of a Republican regime
Res Publica
Public object, public matter
Republicanism would figure the promotion of the
commitment to the common good, to the high
interest of this  community of fate  and its
priority upon other interests (especially
individual ones) i.e. nothing is superior to the
Republic interest
Several Republican traditions
The French Revolution
  • Main attempts
  • To erase Ancient Regime inequalities and
  • Differences as inequalities
  • To unify the French Republic
  • Jacobinism vs Girondism
  • Two examples
  • Deputy Clermont-Tonnerre (1789)
  •  We must give everything to Jews as individuals
    and nothing as a people. 
  • Saint-Just (????)
  •  The sovereignity of people wants the people to
    be united so the sovereignity is opposed to
    factions each faction is a crime against

Jules Ferry
  • IIIrd Republic (1871-1940)
  •  Laïcité de combat  (Fighting Secularism)
  • 1880 Law Religious schools lose their right to
    give university diplomas all  non-authorized 
    churches are disbanded
  • 1882 Law
  • All religious teachings are banned from public
    school programs and replaced by a  civic and
    moral course 

The French Republicanism
People enjoy a real freedom only if they are
freed from
Each group is a political threat
Philosophical reasons
Individuals are able to impose on themselves
their own rules of life
Be free is to be autonomous
Religions as former states of human evolution
If someone does not want to be free, one will
force him to be free
1905 Law
  • Title Law on the Separation Between Churches
    and the State
  • Article 1
  •  The Republic guarantees the freedom of
  • Only restriction the respect of the public
  • Article 2
  •  The Republic does not recognize and give
    funding to any cult. 
  • State neutrality

  • First Headscarve Cases (1989 1993-1994)
  • Laïcité Republicanism
  • The  Last  Case (2003-2004)
  • Two Views on State Neutrality

Stasi Commission
  • Set up by the President Jacques Chirac
  • Composed of scholars, politicians, school
  • Auditing people
  • Deal with the secularism in general, not only
    with the Laïcité at schools

2004 Law
  • A big part of the Stasi Report was ignored
  • The focus stays on religious symbols at schools
  • Some members of the Commission were disappointed
  • René Rémond -  Secularist integrism 
  • Article 1
  •  In public schools, colleges and high schools,
    the wearing of signs and dresses by which
    students ostensibly show a religious membership
    is forbidded. The interior rule should remind
    that all sanctions must come after a dialogue
    with students. 

Outcomes of the law
  • Numerous students left public schools
  • Official numbers 143 (2004), 3  hard cases 
    in 2005
  • Between 200 and 800 (Cedetim)
  • What are they doing?
  • Take long-distance courses
  • Go to private schools (mainly Catholic)
  • Renounce to education
  • Main troubles
  • Some fundamentalists want to set up private
  • Law applies to Sikh people for instance
  • Leaving these girls in their family is the

  • First Headscarve Cases (1989 1993-1994)
  • Laïcité Republicanism
  • The  Last  Case (2003-2004)
  • Two Views on State Neutrality

Neutrality I vs Neutrality II
State neutrality
Solution to the Wars of Religion
Two forms
Neutrality I
Neutrality II
The State should remain neutral in front of
religious beliefs
The State should stay neutral, as well as people
in some or all public areas
No public preference or no support to a religion
in particular
All religious symbols are allowed mainly in the
private sphere
A best model?
  • It is a social choice
  • It depends on the kind of society that people
  • Each model has its own advantages
  • Neutrality I the more tolerant model, compatible
    with a multicultural society
  • Neutrality II the more uniting model
  • and its disadvantages
  • Neutrality I might favorize a distinctive
    competition among religious communities
  • Neutrality II might create inequalities for
    certain groups