- 31 May 2011 : Passing a parliamentary resolution on the principles of secularity and religious freedom
The debate on secularity and Islam launched by the UMP (the party of the presidential majority) ended with the adoption of resolution passed by the National Assembly on 31 May, a text expressing intention, but not-legally binding, seeking to reaffirm "the commitment to respecting the principles of secularity and religious freedom". The text was voted on only by members of the majority, with opposition MPs challenging it on several points.
This resolution provides for the development of a code of secularity and religious freedom, comprising all the applicable legal texts and to be established by the government. It also wishes for the principle of secularity to be extended to all private bodies in the social, medical-social or nursery-care sectors entrusted with missions of public service or of general interest, as well as to everyone working in collaboration with a public service. The latter is mainly aimed at mothers wearing veils who accompany school trips, and an inter-ministerial group will shortly make proposals on the matter. It also expresses the wish for a certain neutrality in religious matters to be imposed in private companies.
- 30 May 2011 : Jehovah’s Witnesses chaplains must be approved for prisons
Several appeals have been lodged with the administrative courts against the refusal of prison authorities to grant the status of prison chaplain to ministers of Jehovah’s Witnesses and, for the first time, an administrative court of appeal has delivered three different verdicts on the matter.
On 30 May 2011, the Administrative Appeal Court in Paris summoned the prison administration to conduct, within two months, a review of applications for approval by Jehovah’s witnesses or be fined 100 Euros per day overdue. The court in fact upheld the previous ruling that had annulled the refusal by stating it was not based on grounds of public policy and further found that "no statutory or regulatory conditions determine the designation of a chaplain for a minimum number of inmates likely to seek spiritual assistance ; and that by therefore claiming in a general way - as is obvious from the ministerial appeal - that there were insufficient numbers of Jehovah’s Witnesses inmates in order to refuse to issue an authorisation to Mr. A to be a chaplain, the reasoning by the Director of Interregional Prison Services in Paris did not legally justify such a decision".
The Chancellery has announced that it has decided to appeal to the Council of State against the decision.
See the text of décision N° 10PA03618 of 30 May 2011.
- 11 April 2011 : Entry into force of the law banning the wearing of the full veil in public spaces
Law no. 2010-1192 of 11 October 2010 forbidding the concealment of the face in public took effect as of 11 April 2011. A circular published in the Official Journal of Thursday, 3 March 2011 specifies the terms and conditions of application of this ban (scope of application of the law, how to proceed in public services, information for the public).
The government at that time launched an information campaign (posters, website) entitled : "La République se vit à visage découvert", translated word to word means "the Republic lives by faces uncovered".
- 5 April 2011 : UMP convention on secularity
After several weeks of controversy, the UMP - party of the presidential majority - gave up on the idea of a broad national debate and, on 5 April 2011, held a simple convention on "Secularity for a better coexistence" in order to address particularly the issue of Islam and its compatibility with the laws of the Republic.
Representatives from the six main religions (Catholic, Orthodox, Muslim, Protestant, Jewish, Buddhist) united within the Conference of Religious Leaders in France (CRCF) expressed in a public forum their reservations about the desirability of such a debate and the "harmful confusion" between political agenda and electoral appointments that it could cause (the next presidential elections are scheduled for 2012).
At the end of its convention, the UMP presented "26 proposals for a better coexistence", including notably the creation of a "Code of secularity and religious freedom", containing all the legislative and regulatory texts and case law on the principle of secularity ; the desire to extend the requirements of neutrality and secularity to private social or medical-social bodies, as well as to casual public service employees ; or even encouraging the development of the creation of denominational squares in cemeteries.