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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Indispensable laïcité

Indispensable Laicism

By Patrick Le Hyaric; Translated by H.F.

Translated Saturday 31 December 2005, by Hervé Fuyet

The 100-year-old Law involving the Separation of the Church and the State constitutes a solid and vital pillar of our Republic.

The 100-year-old Law Law on the Separation of the Church and the State constitutes a solid and vital pillar of our Republic. It is a law that permits the flowers of Liberty to bloom. It marks the independence of the State from the Church and from other religious interests. It means that equal and unalienable rights are granted to all citizens whether they happen to believe in Heaven or not. It guarantees the freedom of conscience.

In that sense, the Law of 1905 constituted a revolutionary advance, promoted by the Left, carried by great political figures like Aristide Briand and Jean Jaurès. It provided for equality of treatment between the various religions, ensuring the neutrality of the State toward all religious confessions and particular interest groups. These principles were confirmed by the Constitutions of 1946 and 1948. It allowed for a formidable exchange of ideas in a republic open to the contributions of a multiplicity of cultures. But this “living together” is conditioned by the existence of real individual and collective rights. It is in that sense that Jean Jaurès was always linking laicism with the republic as a social force and with the extension of freedoms.

But we are today entering a time period when, to survive, globalized financial capitalism is engaged in a meticulous daily process of destruction of freedoms and of social and democratic rights. Segregation and discrimination of all sorts has increased. Essential instruments of equality such as public services, schools, the social security system and pensions are breakingdown, one by one. The Right is even voting an ultra-reactionary law claiming that colonialism had positive aspects.

The Field Commander is the Minister of Interior, president of an authoritarian and populist Rightist Party. His thoughts explain his actions. And his thinking can be found in his manifesto entitled “The Republic, Religions and Hope” published more than a year ago. In this document we are treated to this edifying thought: “In the suburban housing developments all the despair is concentrated, the hope of an after-life can prove to be a “quieting factor”, a calming element”. Faith and religion would serve of remedy against the hard knocks of life, poverty, racial discrimination. Let us not be mistaken. This attempt to inflict a deathly blow to the principle of laicism hides a deeper and more coherent goal, linked to the will of big multinational capital to maintain its domination on women and on men. The goal is that of egotistical individualism, of a society segmented into a mutitude of isolated hostile communities discarding any project of progressive transformation.

Confronted with such a dangerous project that would disfigure and divide our country for the foreseeable future in order to rescue capitalism, there is an urgency to stand up, to gather together to defend the fundamental principles contained in the Law on laicism and to translate into real life the republican trilogy “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”. What is on the agenda, with the rapid chagnes taking place in technology, the sciences, know-how - calling for grteater cooperation and dialogue among people on this planet, is the creation of conditions for an enriched and revitalized implementation of the principles underlying laicism.

It is not the law of 1905 which should be modified. It is society and the world that must be radically changed.

Patrick Le Hyaric

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