This volume explores the dynamic life of religion and politics in France.
The separation of church and state and the autonomy of school education from religion are the two fundamental pillars of France as a secular republic. The historical construction of French secularism (laïcité) was particularly marked by the strong opposition between the state and the Catholic church. However, the religious disaffiliation of a significant proportion of the French strengthened state secularism, which gradually became more consensual – despite some persisting tensions in the school context.
Yet, in the last decades, several factors have revived public debate on laicity: the quarrel over ‘sects’ and new religious movements; controversies over Islam, today the second-largest religion in France; and, more recently, dispute over bioethics. Faced with these challenges, laicity as well as the religious groups involved have been changing.
The authors of this book, ranking amongst the best French experts in the study of religion and secularism, introduce the reader to a living and lived laicity influenced by the social and religious dynamics of contemporary France. They demonstrate that the configurations of French secularism are both more flexible and complex than they appear to be. The volume investigates the extent to which the French idea of secularization has been pushed to be more thorough and radical in its interaction with its other European counterparts.
A key work on French political thought, this volume will be of great interest to scholars and researchers of international politics, political philosophy, political sociology, and religion and politics.
Foreword by Rajeev Bhargava
Preface: Secularism in France today by Violette Graff
Introduction: the complexity of the French principle of Laïcité
Philippe Portier and Jean-Paul Willaime
1. A brief history of French laïcité
2. The three stages of French secularism
3. How did Catholicism shape and challenge French laïcism
4. Minority Religions, Protestantism, and the laws on religion in France
5. From acceptance of diversity to debating multiculturalism: France facing affirmations of identity in the late-twentieth century
6. The role of French secularism in the making of the Islamic collective identity
Claire de Galembert
7. Secularity, religion, and the construction of Europe
Appendix: Chronology of Political French History