Laïcité

Laïcité

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French secularism, in French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

, laïcité is a concept denoting the absence of religious involvement in government affairs as well as absence of government involvement in religious affairs. French secularism has a long history but the current regime is based on the 1905 French law on the Separation of the Churches and the State. During the twentieth century, it evolved to mean equal treatment of all religions, although a more restrictive interpretation of the term has developed since 2004. Dictionaries ordinarily translate laïcité as secularity or secularism (the latter being the political system), although it is sometimes rendered in English as laicity or laicism. While the term was coined in 1871 in the dispute over the removal of religious teachers and instruction from elementary schools, the term laïcité Dates to 1842.

In its strict and official acceptance, it is the principle of separation of church (or religion) and state
Separation of church and state
The concept of the separation of church and state refers to the distance in the relationship between organized religion and the nation state....

. Etymologically, laïcité is a noun formed by adding the suffix -ité (English -ity, Latin -itās) to the Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 adjective lāicus, loanword
Loanword
A loanword is a word borrowed from a donor language and incorporated into a recipient language. By contrast, a calque or loan translation is a related concept where the meaning or idiom is borrowed rather than the lexical item itself. The word loanword is itself a calque of the German Lehnwort,...

 from the Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 λᾱϊκός (lāïkós "of the people", "layman"), the adjective from (lāós "people").

Controversy


The word laïcité has been used, from the end of the 19th century on, to mean the freedom of public institutions, especially primary schools, from the influence of the Catholic Church in countries where it had retained its influence, in the context of a secularization
Secularization
Secularization is the transformation of a society from close identification with religious values and institutions toward non-religious values and secular institutions...

 process. Today, the concept covers other religious movements as well.

Proponents assert the French state secularism is based on respect for freedom of thought
Freedom of thought
Freedom of thought is the freedom of an individual to hold or consider a fact, viewpoint, or thought, independent of others' viewpoints....

 and freedom of religion
Freedom of religion
Freedom of religion is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or community, in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance; the concept is generally recognized also to include the freedom to change religion or not to follow any...

. Thus the absence of a state religion
State religion
A state religion is a religious body or creed officially endorsed by the state...

, and the subsequent separation of the state and Church
Separation of church and state
The concept of the separation of church and state refers to the distance in the relationship between organized religion and the nation state....

, is considered by proponents to be a prerequisite for such freedom of thought. Proponents maintain that laïcité is thus distinct from anti-clericalism
Anti-clericalism
Anti-clericalism is a historical movement that opposes religious institutional power and influence, real or alleged, in all aspects of public and political life, and the involvement of religion in the everyday life of the citizen...

, which actively opposes the influence of religion and the clergy
Clergy
Clergy is the generic term used to describe the formal religious leadership within a given religion. A clergyman, churchman or cleric is a member of the clergy, especially one who is a priest, preacher, pastor, or other religious professional....

. Laïcité relies on the division between private life, where adherents believe religion belongs, and the public sphere
Public sphere
The public sphere is an area in social life where individuals can come together to freely discuss and identify societal problems, and through that discussion influence political action...

, in which each individual, adherents believe, should appear as a simple citizen equal
Egalitarianism
Egalitarianism is a trend of thought that favors equality of some sort among moral agents, whether persons or animals. Emphasis is placed upon the fact that equality contains the idea of equity of quality...

 to all other citizens, devoid of ethnic, religious or other particularities. According to this conception, the government must refrain from taking positions on religious doctrine and only consider religious subjects for their practical consequences on inhabitants' lives.

Supporters argue that Laïcité by itself does not necessarily imply any hostility of the government with respect to religion. It is best described as a belief that government and political issues should be kept separate from religious organizations and religious issues (as long as the latter do not have notable social consequences). This is meant to protect both the government from any possible interference from religious organizations, and to protect the religious organization from political quarrels and controversies.

Critics of laïcité argue that it is a disguised form of anti-clericalism
Anti-clericalism
Anti-clericalism is a historical movement that opposes religious institutional power and influence, real or alleged, in all aspects of public and political life, and the involvement of religion in the everyday life of the citizen...

and infringement on individual right to religious expression, and that, instead of promoting freedom of thought and freedom of religion, it prevents the believer from observing his or her religion.

Another critique is that, in countries historically dominated by one religious tradition, officially avoiding taking any positions on religious matters favors the dominant religious tradition of the relevant country. They point out that even in the current French Fifth Republic
French Fifth Republic
The Fifth Republic is the fifth and current republican constitution of France, introduced on 4 October 1958. The Fifth Republic emerged from the collapse of the French Fourth Republic, replacing the prior parliamentary government with a semi-presidential system...

 (1958–), school holiday
Holiday
A Holiday is a day designated as having special significance for which individuals, a government, or a religious group have deemed that observance is warranted. It is generally an official or unofficial observance of religious, national, or cultural significance, often accompanied by celebrations...

s mostly follow the Christian liturgical year
Liturgical year
The liturgical year, also known as the church year, consists of the cycle of liturgical seasons in Christian churches which determines when feast days, including celebrations of saints, are to be observed, and which portions of Scripture are to be read. Distinct liturgical colours may appear in...

, even though Easter holidays have been replaced by Spring holidays, which may or may not include Easter, depending on the years. However, the Minister of Education has responded to this criticism by giving leave to students for important holidays of their specific religions, and food menus served in secondary schools
Education in France
The French educational system is highly centralized, organized, and ramified. It is divided into three different stages:* the primary education ;* secondary education ;...

 pay particular attention to ensuring that each religious observer may respect his religion's specific restrictions concerning diets.

Other countries, following in the French model, have forms of Laïcité – examples include Mexico and Turkey.

Contemporary French political secularism


The principle of laïcité in France is implemented through a number of policies. The French government is legally prohibited from recognizing any religion (except for legacy statutes like those of military chaplain
Chaplain
Traditionally, a chaplain is a minister in a specialized setting such as a priest, pastor, rabbi, or imam or lay representative of a religion attached to a secular institution such as a hospital, prison, military unit, police department, university, or private chapel...

s and the local law of Alsace-Moselle
Alsace-Moselle
The territory of the former Alsace-Lorraine, commonly known as Alsace-Moselle, is a region in the eastern part of France, bordering with Germany. Its principal cities are Metz and Strassburg. Alsace-Moselle was part of the German Empire from 1871 to 1918, and again from 1940 until its liberation by...

). Instead, it recognizes religious organizations, according to formal legal criteria that do not address religious doctrine:
  • whether the sole purpose of the organization is to organize religious activities (so that, for instance, the pretense of being a religious organization is not used for tax evasion
    Tax evasion
    Tax evasion is the general term for efforts by individuals, corporations, trusts and other entities to evade taxes by illegal means. Tax evasion usually entails taxpayers deliberately misrepresenting or concealing the true state of their affairs to the tax authorities to reduce their tax liability,...

    )
  • whether the organization disrupts public order.


French political leaders
Politics of France
France is a semi-presidential representative democratic republic, in which the President of France is head of state and the Prime Minister of France is the head of government, and there is a pluriform, multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is...

, though not prohibited from making religious remarks, refrain from it. Religious considerations are generally considered incompatible with reasoned political debate. Of course, political leaders may openly practice their religion (for instance, president Nicolas Sarkozy
Nicolas Sarkozy
Nicolas Sarkozy is the 23rd and current President of the French Republic and ex officio Co-Prince of Andorra. He assumed the office on 16 May 2007 after defeating the Socialist Party candidate Ségolène Royal 10 days earlier....

 is a Catholic
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

), but they are expected to refrain from mixing their private religious life with their public functions. Christine Boutin
Christine Boutin
Christine Boutin is a French politician and a major Christian democratic figure in France. She served as a member of the French National Assembly representing Yvelines, from 1986 until 2007, when she was appointed Minister of Housing and Urban Development by President Nicolas Sarkozy...

, who openly argued on religious grounds against a legal domestic partnership available regardless of the sex of the partners, was quickly marginalized.

The term was originally the French equivalent of the term laity, that is, everyone who is not clergy
Clergy
Clergy is the generic term used to describe the formal religious leadership within a given religion. A clergyman, churchman or cleric is a member of the clergy, especially one who is a priest, preacher, pastor, or other religious professional....

. After the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

 this meaning changed and it came to mean keeping religion separate from the executive
Executive (government)
Executive branch of Government is the part of government that has sole authority and responsibility for the daily administration of the state bureaucracy. The division of power into separate branches of government is central to the idea of the separation of powers.In many countries, the term...

, judicial, and legislative branches of government. This includes prohibitions on having a state religion, as well as for the government to endorse any religious position, be it a religion or atheism.

Although the term was current throughout the nineteenth century, France did not fully separate church and state until the passage of its 1905 law on the separation of the Churches and the State, prohibiting the state from recognizing or funding any religion. All religious buildings in France (mostly Catholic churches, Protestant temples and Jewish synagogues) became the property of the City councils. Those now have the duty to maintain the (often historical) buildings but can't subsidize the religious organizations using them. In areas that were part of Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 at that time, and which did not return to France until 1918, some arrangements for the cooperation of church and state are still in effect today (see Alsace-Moselle
Alsace-Moselle
The territory of the former Alsace-Lorraine, commonly known as Alsace-Moselle, is a region in the eastern part of France, bordering with Germany. Its principal cities are Metz and Strassburg. Alsace-Moselle was part of the German Empire from 1871 to 1918, and again from 1940 until its liberation by...

). 

Laïcité is currently a core concept in the French constitution, Article 1 of which formally states that France is a secular republic ("La France est une République indivisible, laïque, démocratique et sociale.") This of course does not prevent an active role on the part of the state (Presidence of the Republic, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of the Interior) in the appointment of Catholic diocesan bishops – see Briand-Ceretti Agreement
Briand-Ceretti Agreement
The Briand-Ceretti Agreement is a 1926 agreement whereby French diocesan bishops are nominated by the Vatican after a process involving the French Ministries of the Interior and of Foreign Affairs....

. Many see being discreet with one's religion as a necessary part of being French. This has led to frequent divisions with some non-Christian immigrants, especially with part of France's large Muslim
Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

 population. A debate took place over whether any religious apparel or displays by individuals, such as the Islamic hijab
Hijab
The word "hijab" or "'" refers to both the head covering traditionally worn by Muslim women and modest Muslim styles of dress in general....

, Sikh turban
Turban
In English, Turban refers to several types of headwear popularly worn in the Middle East, North Africa, Punjab, Jamaica and Southwest Asia. A commonly used synonym is Pagri, the Indian word for turban.-Styles:...

, (large) Christian cross
Christian cross
The Christian cross, seen as a representation of the instrument of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, is the best-known religious symbol of Christianity...

es and Jewish Stars of David
Star of David
The Star of David, known in Hebrew as the Shield of David or Magen David is a generally recognized symbol of Jewish identity and Judaism.Its shape is that of a hexagram, the compound of two equilateral triangles...

, should be banned from public schools. Such a ban came into effect in France in 2004; see French law on secularity and conspicuous religious symbols in schools
French law on secularity and conspicuous religious symbols in schools
The French law on secularity and conspicuous religious symbols in schools bans wearing conspicuous religious symbols in French public primary and secondary schools...

. In the spring of 2011 there was a reinforcement of laicité in hospitals, advocated by the Minister of the Interior, Claude Guéant, and in public service generally, by the official non-discrimination agency, la HALDE. The simultaneous broadcasting of the traditional Protestant and Catholic Lent Sermons (operating since 1946) has been interrupted. Earlier the broadcasting of the Russian Orthodox Christmas night liturgy was similarly stopped on 6/7 January.

The strict separation of church and state which began with the 1905 law has evolved into what some see as a "form of political correctness that made bringing religion into public affairs a major taboo." President Sarkozy has criticised this approach as a "negative laicite" and wants to develop a "positive laicite" that recognizes the contribution of faith to French culture, history and society, allows for faith in the public discourse and for government subsidies for faith-based groups. Sarkozy sees France's main religions as positive contributions to French society. He was elected on a platform proposing a modernisation of the Republic's century-old principle of laïcité. He visited the Pope
Pope
The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

 in December 2007 and publicly acknowledged France's Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 roots, while highlighting the importance of freedom of thought
Freedom of thought
Freedom of thought is the freedom of an individual to hold or consider a fact, viewpoint, or thought, independent of others' viewpoints....

, hinting that faith
Faith
Faith is confidence or trust in a person or thing, or a belief that is not based on proof. In religion, faith is a belief in a transcendent reality, a religious teacher, a set of teachings or a Supreme Being. Generally speaking, it is offered as a means by which the truth of the proposition,...

 should come back into the public sphere
Public sphere
The public sphere is an area in social life where individuals can come together to freely discuss and identify societal problems, and through that discussion influence political action...

. Sarkozy publicly declared the burqa "not welcome" in France in 2009 and favored legislation to outlaw it, following which, in February 2010, a post office robbery took place by two burqa
Burqa
A burqa is an enveloping outer garment worn by women in some Islamic religion to cover their bodies in public places. The burqa is usually understood to be the woman's loose body-covering , plus the head-covering , plus the face-veil .-Etymology:A speculative and unattested etymology...

-clad robbers, ethnicity unknown, who after entering the post office, removed their veils.

In line with Sarkozy's views on the need for reform of laïcité, Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI
Benedict XVI is the 265th and current Pope, by virtue of his office of Bishop of Rome, the Sovereign of the Vatican City State and the leader of the Catholic Church as well as the other 22 sui iuris Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with the Holy See...

 on September 12, 2008 said it was time to revisit the debate over the relationship between church and state, advocating a "healthy" form of laïcité. Meeting with Sarkozy, he stated: "In fact, it is fundamental, on the one hand, to insist upon the distinction between the political realm and that of religion in order to preserve both the religious freedom of citizens and the responsibility of the state toward them."  He went on: "On the other hand, [it is important] to become more aware of the irreplaceable role of religion for the formation of consciences and the contribution which it can bring to – among other things – the creation of a basic ethical consensus within society.”

Following March 2011 local elections strong disagreement appeared within the governing UMP over the appropriateness of holding a debate on laïcité as desired by the President of the Republic. On 30 March a letter appeared in La Croix signed by representatives of six religious bodies opposing the appropriateness of such a debate.

A law was passed on April 11, 2011, with strong support from political parties as well as from Sarkozy, which made it illegal to hide the face in public spaces, affecting a few thousand women in France wearing the niqab and the burqa.

See Separation of Church and State re "friendly" and "hostile" separation.

Belgium



In Belgium
Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

, "laïcité" has a double meaning. It refers either to the separation between Church and State
Separation of church and state
The concept of the separation of church and state refers to the distance in the relationship between organized religion and the nation state....

 or the community of citizens that reject religion and follow a secular way of life, such as free-thinkers. To distinguish between the two concepts, this community is also called georganiseerde vrijzinnigheid (Dutch
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

) or laïcité organisée (French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

).

Under the Belgian constitution, ministers of religion are paid with government funds. The constitution was amended in 1991 in order to give the same right to persons fulfilling similar functions (mainly moral assistance) for the nonreligious. Public schools must now offer pupils the choice between religion courses and courses in non-religious morals.

Turkey


In Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

, a strong stance of secularism has held sway since Mustafa Kemal Atatürk
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was an Ottoman and Turkish army officer, revolutionary statesman, writer, and the first President of Turkey. He is credited with being the founder of the Republic of Turkey....

's Turkish revolution
Atatürk's Reforms
Atatürk's Reforms were a series of political, legal, cultural, social and economic reforms that were designed to modernize the new Republic of Turkey into a democratic and secular nation-state...

 in the early 20th century. On March 3, 1924 Turkey removed the caliphate
Caliphate
The term caliphate, "dominion of a caliph " , refers to the first system of government established in Islam and represented the political unity of the Muslim Ummah...

 system and all religious influence from the state. Sunni Islam, the majority religion, is now controlled by the Turkish government through the Department of Religious Affairs
Diyanet Isleri Baskanligi
In Turkey, the Presidency of Religious Affairs is an official institution established in 1924 after the abolition of the caliphate. Founded by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey as a successor to Sheikh ul-Islam, it represents the highest Islamic religious authority in the country...

, and is state-funded. Islamic views which are deemed political are censored in accordance with the principle of secularism.

This system of Turkish laïcité permeates both the government and religious sphere. The content of the weekly sermons in all state funded mosques has to be approved by the state. Also, independent Sunni communities are illegal. Minority religions, like Armenian or Greek Orthodox
Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople
The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople , part of the wider Orthodox Church, is one of the fourteen autocephalous churches within the communion of Orthodox Christianity...

y, are guaranteed by the constitution as individual faiths and are mostly tolerated, but this guarantee does not give any rights to religious communities. Turkey's view is that the Treaty of Lausanne
Treaty of Lausanne
The Treaty of Lausanne was a peace treaty signed in Lausanne, Switzerland on 24 July 1923, that settled the Anatolian and East Thracian parts of the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire. The treaty of Lausanne was ratified by the Greek government on 11 February 1924, by the Turkish government on 31...

 gives certain religious rights to Jews, Greeks
Greeks in Turkey
The Greeks in Turkey constitute a population of Greek and Greek-speaking Eastern Orthodox Christians who mostly live in Istanbul, including its district Princes' Islands, as well as on the two islands of the western entrance to the Dardanelles: Imbros and Tenedos .They are the remnants of the...

, and Armenians
Armenians in Turkey
Armenians in Turkey have an estimated population of 40,000 to 70,000 . Most are concentrated around Istanbul. The Armenians support their own newspapers and schools...

 but not, for example, to Syrian-Orthodox or Roman Catholics, because the latter ones did not play any political roles during the treaty. However the Treaty of Lausanne
Treaty of Lausanne
The Treaty of Lausanne was a peace treaty signed in Lausanne, Switzerland on 24 July 1923, that settled the Anatolian and East Thracian parts of the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire. The treaty of Lausanne was ratified by the Greek government on 11 February 1924, by the Turkish government on 31...

 does not specify any nationality or ethnicity and simply identifies non-Moslems in general.

Recently, the desire to reestablish the Greek Orthodox seminary on Heybeli Island near Istanbul
Halki seminary
The Halki seminary, formally the Theological School of Halki , was founded on 1 October 1844 on the island of Halki , the second-largest of the Princes' Islands in the Sea of Marmara. It was the main school of theology of the Eastern Orthodox Church's Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople until...

 became a political issue in regard to Turkey's accession to EU membership. The EU considers such prohibition to amount to suppression of religious freedom. However, it is pointed out that if Greek Orthodoxy is allowed to reopen a school it will become the only religion in Turkey with the right to an independent religious school. Recent attempts by the conservative government to outlaw adultery
Adultery
Adultery is sexual infidelity to one's spouse, and is a form of extramarital sex. It originally referred only to sex between a woman who was married and a person other than her spouse. Even in cases of separation from one's spouse, an extramarital affair is still considered adultery.Adultery is...

 caused an outcry in Turkey and was seen as an attempt to legislate Islamic values, but others point out that the legislation was intended to combat polygamy
Polygamy
Polygamy is a marriage which includes more than two partners...

 which is still common in rural areas, although not recognized legally. Also, as in France, Muslims are forbidden from wearing the hijab
Hijab
The word "hijab" or "'" refers to both the head covering traditionally worn by Muslim women and modest Muslim styles of dress in general....

 in government institutions such as schools (whether as teachers or as students), or the civil service. The ban in universities was briefly lifted in 2008, but reinstated by court order later that year.

Contrast with the United States



In the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, the First Amendment
First Amendment to the United States Constitution
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights. The amendment prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering...

 to the Constitution contains a similar concept, although the term "laicity" is not used either in the Constitution or elsewhere, and is in fact used as a term to contrast European secularism with American secularism. That amendment includes clauses prohibiting both governmental interference with the "free exercise" of religion, and governmental "establishment"
Establishment Clause of the First Amendment
The Establishment Clause is the first of several pronouncements in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, stating, Together with the Free Exercise Clause The Establishment Clause is the first of several pronouncements in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution,...

 of religion. These clauses have been held by the courts to apply to both the federal and state governments
Incorporation (Bill of Rights)
The incorporation of the Bill of Rights is the process by which American courts have applied portions of the U.S. Bill of Rights to the states. Prior to the 1890s, the Bill of Rights was held only to apply to the federal government...

. Together, the "free exercise clause" and "establishment clause" are considered to accomplish a "separation of church and state
Separation of church and state
The concept of the separation of church and state refers to the distance in the relationship between organized religion and the nation state....

."

However, separation is not extended to bar religious conduct in public places or by public servants. Public servants, up to and including the President of the United States
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

, often make proclamations of religious faith. Sessions of both houses of the United States Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

 and most state legislatures typically open with a prayer by a minister of some faith or other, and many if not most politicians and senior public servants in Washington, DC attend the annual Roman Catholic
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 Red Mass
Red Mass
A Red Mass is a Mass celebrated annually in the Catholic Church for judges, attorneys, law school professors, students, and government officials...

 at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle
Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle
The Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington D.C., most commonly known as St. Matthew's Cathedral, is the seat of the Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington. As St...

 regardless of their personal religious convictions. In contrast to France, the wearing of religious insignia in public schools is largely noncontroversial as a matter of law and culture in the U.S.; the main cases where there have been controversies are when the practice in question is potentially dangerous (for instance, the wearing of the Sikh
Sikhism
Sikhism is a monotheistic religion founded during the 15th century in the Punjab region, by Guru Nanak Dev and continued to progress with ten successive Sikh Gurus . It is the fifth-largest organized religion in the world and one of the fastest-growing...

 kirpan
Kirpan
The kirpan is a ceremonial sword or dagger carried by orthodox Sikhs. It is a religious commandment given by Guru Gobind Singh at the Baisakhi Amrit Sanchar in CE 1699, all baptised Sikhs must wear a kirpan at all times....

knife in public places), and even then the issue is usually settled in favor of allowing the practice. In addition, the U.S. government regards religious institutions as tax-exempt 501(c)(3) non-profits provided that they do not overtly interfere with politics, which some observers interpret as an implicit act of establishment. Moreover, the military includes government-paid religious chaplains to provide for the spiritual needs of soldiers. In contrast to Europe, however, the government cannot display religious symbols (such as the cross) in public schools, courts and other government offices, although some exceptions are made (e.g. recognition of a cultural group's religious holiday). In addition, the United States Supreme Court has banned any activity in public schools and other government-run areas that can be viewed as a government endorsement of religion.

The French philosopher and Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly . The Declaration arose directly from the experience of the Second World War and represents the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled...

 co-drafter Jacques Maritain
Jacques Maritain
Jacques Maritain was a French Catholic philosopher. Raised as a Protestant, he converted to Catholicism in 1906. An author of more than 60 books, he helped to revive St. Thomas Aquinas for modern times and is a prominent drafter of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights...

 noted the distinction between the models found in France and in the mid-twentieth century United States.
He considered the US model of that time to be more amicable because it had both "sharp distinction and actual cooperation" between church and state, what he called "an historical treasure" and admonished the United States, "Please to God that you keep it carefully, and do not let your concept of separation veer round to the European one."

Proposal in Mexico


In March 2010, the lower house of the Mexican legislature introduced legislation to amend the Constitution to make the Mexican government formally "laica" – meaning "lay" or "secular". Critics of the move say the "context surrounding the amendment suggests that it might be a step backwards for religious liberty and true separation of church and state.". Coming on the heels of the Church's vocal objection to legalization of abortion as well as same sex unions and adoptions in Mexico City, "together with some statements of its supporters, suggests that it might be an attempt to suppress the Catholic Church's ability to engage in public policy debates." Mexico has had a history of religious suppression and persecution
Persecution of Christians in Mexico
The modern history of Mexico has often been characterized by deep conflicts between the government and the Catholic Church, sometimes including outright persecution of Catholics in Mexico.- Beginning of Anticlericalism and Persecution :...

. Critics of the amendment reject the idea that "Utilitarians, Nihilists, Capitalists, and Socialists can all bring their philosophy to bear on public life, but Catholics (or other religious minorities) must check their religion at the door" in a sort of "second-class citizenship" which they consider nothing more than religious discrimination.

See also



  • 1825 Anti-Sacrilege Act
    Anti-Sacrilege Act
    The Anti-Sacrilege Act was a French law against blasphemy and sacrilege passed in January 1825 under King Charles X. The law was never applied and was later revoked at the beginning of the July monarchy under King Louis-Philippe.-The draft bill:In April 1824, King Louis XVIII's government, headed...

  • Politics of Turkey
    Politics of Turkey
    Politics of Turkey takes place in a framework of a strictly secular parliamentary representative democratic republic, whereby the Prime Minister of Turkey is the head of government, and of a multi-party system...

  • Mustafa Kemal Atatürk
    Mustafa Kemal Atatürk
    Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was an Ottoman and Turkish army officer, revolutionary statesman, writer, and the first President of Turkey. He is credited with being the founder of the Republic of Turkey....

  • Secular state
    Secular state
    A secular state is a concept of secularism, whereby a state or country purports to be officially neutral in matters of religion, supporting neither religion nor irreligion. A secular state also claims to treat all its citizens equally regardless of religion, and claims to avoid preferential...

  • Civil religion
    Civil religion
    The intended meaning of the term civil religion often varies according to whether one is a sociologist of religion or a professional political commentator...

  • Secularism
    Secularism
    Secularism is the principle of separation between government institutions and the persons mandated to represent the State from religious institutions and religious dignitaries...


  • Anti-clericalism
    Anti-clericalism
    Anti-clericalism is a historical movement that opposes religious institutional power and influence, real or alleged, in all aspects of public and political life, and the involvement of religion in the everyday life of the citizen...

  • Freemasonry and Catholicism
  • Separation of church and state
    Separation of church and state
    The concept of the separation of church and state refers to the distance in the relationship between organized religion and the nation state....

  • Secular Humanism
    Secular humanism
    Secular Humanism, alternatively known as Humanism , is a secular philosophy that embraces human reason, ethics, justice, and the search for human fulfillment...

  • 1880 Jules Ferry laws
    Jules Ferry laws
    The Jules Ferry Laws are a set of French Laws which established free education , then mandatory and laic education . Jules Ferry, a lawyer holding the office of Minister of Public Instruction in the 1880s, is widely credited for creating the modern Republican School...

  • 1905 French law on the Separation of the Churches and the State

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