France: Two reports on secularity reignite debate

Source: FSSPX News


On September 21, Nicolas Sarkozy, the interior minister responsible for religious affairs, told the daily La Croix that he would be taking up the debate on secularity after having received the two reports by Rossinot and Machelon.

 André Rossinot, the co-president of the Radical Party has drawn up a report on secularity within the public sector and more particularly in national education and state hospitals. In this report, amongst the proposals put forward, he advises the interdiction of patients to refuse a doctor on religious grounds, opposition to the refusal of families to follow certain courses at school or to circulate a “charter on secularity and citizenship” in educational establishments.

 Jean-Pierre Machelon, director of studies at the Ecole pratique of Higher studies, assisted by a commission of around fifteen experts and practitioners of religious law, whose brief was the writing of a “juridical reflection on relations of religions with authorities.” The report which bears his name, is a technical appraisal on relations between administrative districts and religions, the law of associations and the fiscal system of religions.

 “On an essential point, like the question of the laying out of denominational burial plots in communal cemeteries, I hope that a genuine debate will take place,” explained Nicolas Sarkozy. This is why as Minister for religions, I am addressing the Machelon report to the main religions of France, as well as the presidents of associations of local councils, in order to find out their opinion.”

 Although the law of separation of 1905 specifies that the French Republic does not “recognize, nor finance, nor subsidize any religion,” the municipalities have circumvented this interdiction of direct financing, by making available plots of land, as at Marseilles, or granting subsidies for non-religious facilities, as in 1921 for the Muslim Institute of the Paris Mosque. The Machelon report also proposes the authorization of direct subsidies without limit, for the construction of places of worship. “In order to fight against fundamentalism and issues relating to ethnic minorities, all those who have faith should be able to live and practice it with equality,” declared the minister.

 The Machelon Commission has also carried out a survey on religious membership in France, pointing out that no recently published data exist, since the last official census on religions dates from 1872. The figures given have been established from enquiries and surveys, as well as information given by each religious group. Thus in 2006, according to a survey IFOP – La Croix, 65% of the French declare themselves Catholic, compared with more than 80% at the beginning of the 70s. After the Catholic Church, Islam – including all factions declares 4 million members and represents the second major religion in France (6% of the French population and 14% of the 18–24 age group). Next come the Protestants, without distinction of various groups, with around 1.2 million faithful (that is 2% of the French population and 4% in the 18-24 age group), members of the Orthodox and Eastern Churches number 400,000, the Jews 600,000 and Buddhists between 300,000 and 400,000. There are 140,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in France. Approximately 25% of the French declare themselves to be without religion.