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Memoria e Ricerca

Laicity in France. The contemporary debate (1980-2013)

di Jacqueline Lalouette
in Memoria e Ricerca n.s. 43 (2013), p. 25

Called «laical» in the constitutions of the Fourth and Fifth Republic, France is periodically animated by wide and passionate debates about laicity, a term considered by different juridical and philosophical points of view. Among the polemics, we remind the agreement (concordato), that is operative too in Alsace-Lorraine – because these regions were Germans when a new law to separate State and Church was approved – and the private schools (previously called «free»), that obtain important public founds according to the Debré law of 31 december 1959, a norm never accepted by the most inflexible laicist exponents. From the 1980s, the debate about laicity refers above all the presence of Islam in France: the dressing of the headscarf or burqa, the consumption of meat halal, the construction of mosques, and so on. Extremely hostile towards muslims, radical right movement presents itself as a great defender of laicity. Today, further problems foment the debate as the transformation of social customs or the bioethic issues – euthanasia, stem cells, gay marriage –, and continually there is a fight between religious leaders and pro-laicity groups. Morover, there is a link between laicity and feminist associations, that consider the religions largely guilty of discriminations suffered by women. Keywords: French Republic, concordato, school, Islam, ethics, women.