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Organization of religious communities : general regime

Faiths are organised under different legal forms. The Law of 9 December 1905 envisages the constitution of religious associations, “associations formed to provide for the expenses, maintenance and public exercise of a faith” (Article 18), which are created in accordance with the common law on associations (Law of 1 July 1901). The Catholic Church refused this status on the grounds that it did not respect the hierarchical organisation of the Church and, from 1924 onwards, it created for its part diocesan associations placed under the authority of the bishop. These two types of associations have as exclusive aim practising a faith and they cannot receive public subsidies. They do, however, benefit from a number of tax benefits (on the question of funding, see the section “Funding faiths”). Faiths may also have recourse to other legal forms: common law associations (Law of 1901), foundations... which may have in full or in part a religious purpose.

Concerning the ownership of buildings of worship, the 1905 Law (Article 12 et seq.) acknowledged ownership by départements and communes of buildings belonging to them at that time, as well as buildings belonging to former public institutions of worship not claimed by a religious association (as in the case of Catholic buildings). The law of 2 January 1907 on public religious practice provides nevertheless that the buildings (mainly Catholic) belonging to the public domain “are left at the disposal of the faithful and of ministers of religion for the practice of their religion” (Article 5). Protestant and Jewish faiths which have formed religious associations have received full ownership of the buildings previously belonging to former public establishments, these buildings being the subject of legal assignment to the faith concerned. Buildings of worship built after 1905 belong to the private individuals who built or acquired them. This plurality of ownership systems for buildings of worship has resulted in a multiplicity of rules applicable to their maintenance and conservation.

D 19 April 2013    AFrançoise Curtit

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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