‘The main reason to live in France’: Your views on French secularism

Most readers agree with the principle - although with caveats

Laïcité is often seen as the fourth tenet of the French Republic after liberté, égalité and fraternité
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Earlier this week, we asked for your views on France’s staunch stance on laïcité – or state secularism – after we published an article by writer Nick Inman on the topic.

Mr Inman highlighted laïcité’s importance in France and its key tenets that allow freedom of religion, while at the same time stopping the enforcing of religion on others by either individuals or the state.

The article also highlighted some recent controversies surrounding the tenet, however, such as the ‘Burkini’ debates over the last decade.

In general, Connexion readers back the concept – highlighting how a lack of separation of church and state in other countries has caused issues – although some pointed out that they do not agree with all aspects of the code.

In this article, we share some of your opinions on what is often a controversial topic in the country.

‘Laïcité as a force for good’

As mentioned, most readers voiced their agreement with the concept.

“I support and admire the French principle of secularism, especially in the state school system,” said K.F., a Scottish reader who compared the situation in France to that in Scotland, where, he said, religious divides have made schooling unbalanced.

“France has it right,” he added when it comes to removing religious divides in schools.

“To have no religion in the state education system is fundamental to forming well-balanced adults with the ability to keep their beliefs or indeed lack of a private affair,” he concluded.

Read also: What is the origin of France’s motto ‘Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité’?

Comparisons to other countries, particularly the US, were made by other readers.

Readers G.M. and S.M. said they “are horrified by the ongoing movement by extreme right-wing authoritarian religious groups… to impose their dogma on the general population.”

“The worry is that they are succeeding,” they added.

In particular, they highlight abortion – which has been legal since 1975 in France and is set to be enshrined in the constitution in the future.

“We are not wanting to remove religion, we just believe that society needs to protect itself… and the separation of church and state is a tool to prevent extremists taking over,” they say.

Others were enthusiastic about the concept.

“It is the main reason I want to live in France,” said D.M., echoing the views of many who have come to France over history because of the nation’s secular and liberal views.

Read also: What questions should I expect during a French citizenship interview?

Religions must be respected

Other readers, whilst still backing the idea of secularism, say that the law must be careful not to discriminate against religious people.

It must be necessary that “all religions can live together as long as nothing [like other religions or secularism itself] is forced on people,” says M.W.

E.C. agrees with the principle but says it “should be consistent in its application”.

The principle “should not fund any activities by any sect [and] should prohibit any sect from fermenting anger or violence against another,” he added.

Reader L.D. was one of the only readers to disagree with a core practice of laïcité’ in daily French life.

“I do think that the banning of religious symbols by the state is wrong,” he says.

“If a person has a faith that requires an outward symbol of that faith then as long as that symbol does not breach security laws, such as full face covering, then it should be allowed, even in schools or the workplace,” he said, commenting on the aforementioned ban of religious symbols in schools.

He says that he is open to displays of religion in public “as long as… people don't try to push their views onto others.”

Your view

Do you agree with these views on French secularism? Let us know your thoughts via news@connexionfrance.com. Thank you!

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