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Accueil > France > Statut juridique des religions > Présentation générale > Principe de laïcité

Principe de laïcité

Secularity (laïcité) is an organising principle of public authorities, fruit of a historical evolution resulting from the French Revolution. Since 1789, Article 10 of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen has proclaimed religious freedom, with it being enshrined in the 1791 Constitution. At the end of the nineteenth century, education acts made schooling free, secular and compulsory. The Law of 9 December 1905 put an end to the public service of recognised faiths. Without explicitly citing the notion of laïcité, it defines its contours by enunciating the principle of separation of churches and the state (Article 2) and by reaffirming the guarantee of freedom of conscience and free religious practice (Article 1). Laïcité became a constitutional principle with Article 1 of the 1946 Constitution and today the first article of the 1958 Constitution lays down that : “France is an indivisible, secular, democratic and social republic. It ensures equality before the law for all citizens without distinction of origin, race or religion. It respects all beliefs. (...)”.

As a principle of mutual independence between the political power and the different spiritual or religious movements, laïcité thus contains several dimensions, as recalled by the Council of State in its public report of 2004 : neutrality of the French State, freedom of religion and respect for pluralism.

- The principle of the neutrality of public services is closely related to the guarantee of equal treatment of citizens. If they have freedom of conscience, the agents of public services cannot, as part of their professional activity, express philosophical, religious or political opinions. Case law (Council of State Opinion of 3 May 2000, Miss Marteaux, no. 217017) has consistently upheld the ban on public officials wearing any distinctive religious signs.

- Freedom of religion is a fundamental freedom whose manifestations may however be limited for reasons of public order. As in other European countries, it is in France largely framed by international law and in particular by the case law of the European Court of Human Rights.

- Secularity and the fact that the State “does not recognise any faith” (Article 2 of the Law of 1905) does not mean that the latter ignores the religious phenomenon, but rather that it must respect all beliefs. It is a guarantor of religious pluralism and acts positively to promote equality between faiths.

18 avril 2013