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Religion and Secularism in the European Union

State of Affairs and Current Debates


Edited By Jan Nelis, Caroline Sägesser and Jean-Philippe Schreiber

The present volume monitors new developments concerning religious issues, faith-based organizations, State-Church relations and secularism in the EU, which especially during the past two decades have undergone profound changes, changes which continuously and increasingly alter mentalities and habits, whether belief-related or not. In this collective work, authors develop the major themes that are relevant to their country of expertise, while a final chapter is devoted to the role of the European Courts (ECHR and EU). The different chapters show that in recent years, religion, once thought to be of minor importance in a highly secular society, has made quite a vigorous political comeback. Thus Europe seems to have reached a crucial point in its history, a moment in which future tendencies in the field of religion and secularism are being defined, and negotiated. There is little doubt that the outcome of this process will influence the continent’s future outlook, as well as its role and relevance in an increasingly globalized world.

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France. The Struggle for Laïcité (Anne-Laure Zwilling)


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The Struggle for Laïcité


CNRS-University of Strasbourg

France is usually thought of as the embodiment of laïcité (secularism). However, the struggle to both reach a generally accepted understanding of it, and to implement it, is ongoing. The recent past has highlighted tensions due to religious beliefs and practices in French society, whereas the latest social and religious evolutions also have an impact on laïcité.

Laïcité is nowadays an important topic in French public debate: according to the catalogue of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, in 2014 no less than 11 books contained the word in their title, whereas newspaper Le Monde recently also dedicated a newsletter to it. Another illustration of this reality is the formation, by the government, of a monitoring group on secularity, the Observatoire de la Laïcité, which was created in 2007 by president Jacques Chirac and fully set up in 2013 by president François Hollande and prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault. The aim of this monitoring group is to advise and assist the government in ensuring respect of the principle of laïcité. In July 2014, the Group issued a short note entitled La laïcité aujourd’hui (“Secularism today”), recalling the historical roots and meaning of secularism and developing ways of implementing it in contemporary society. This reflects the current struggle in France to reach a balance between promotion of secularism and actual...

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