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Austin Cline

France to Fight Religious Pathology, Muslim and Catholic

By December 26, 2012

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French President Francois Hollande has announced the creation of a new government agency that will study how church/state separation is being upheld in France. Even more important, perhaps, is that the agency will also track religious groups that may be suffering from "religious pathology." This could lead to groups being disbanded and immigrants being deported.

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French secularism is different from American secularism. Whereas American secularism is more passive and mainly just a matter of not overtly promoting any one religion, French secularism is much more activist and includes enforcing secularism in large parts of the public sphere. Religion is treated as something that should be kept private and not made a public issue.

Today, French secularism is being threatened on two fronts: right-wing, traditionalist Catholics on the one side and extremist Islamists on the other. The French government intends to take action against both, if necessary, and also intends to start doing more to promote secular French values as an antidote to dangerous sectarianism.

[Interior Minister Manuel] Valls and two other cabinet ministers told the conference on Tuesday evening the Socialist-led government would stress the secularist policy called "laicite" that they said was weakened under the previous conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy.

"The aim is not to combat opinions by force, but to detect and understand when an opinion turns into a potentially violent and criminal excess," he said.

"The objective is to identify when it's suitable to intervene to treat what has become a religious pathology," said Valls, whose ministry oversees relations with religions. ...

France actively pursues and sometimes bans sects and cults considered a threat to public order but radical Islamist groups have mostly been treated as security problems. Classifying them as sectarian could lead to preemptive legal action against them.

Source: Reuters

The activist form of secularism that has been adopted in France, known as "laicite," would not go over too well in America. Here, such overt, aggressive secularism would be treated as horribly anti-religious and thus a violation of the First Amendment. I'm not sure, though, that it would violate the First Amendment (or at least that much of it would). And France certainly has fewer problems with religious extremism than America does.

December 29, 2012 at 6:59 pm
(1) Sally says:

Vive la France!

December 30, 2012 at 9:40 am
(2) Michel Virard says:

Indeed France laïcité is different but perhaps not in the way often described in North-America. Although the 1905 law of Church-State separation was sweeping, it has since been slowly but surely nibbled at to the point of being more of a pretence than a reality. Did you know that:
1-The government still pays the salaries of priests, ministers & rabbis in Alsace and Lorraine ?
2-The government nowadays pays 100% of the “private” school (read religious for 95% of them) teacher’s salaries as long as the school teaches the core public school curriculum.
3-Since the 1905 law, a huge number of church buildings are the official property of the state and, as such, are maintained with taxpayers’ money. Those buildings are clearly marked with “République française” etched above their main entrance… and still used by the local clergy!

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