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  • December 2021: Conversion therapy

In 2019, the television channel Arte broadcast an investigation entitled "Homotherapies, conversion forcée" (Homotherapies, forced conversions), directed by Bernard Nicolas. Practices aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, most often in religious groups and called sexual reorientation therapies or conversion therapies, have thus become the focus of public attention.
In July 2019, a flash mission on practices claiming to modify sexual orientation and gender identity had been created, with Laurence Vanceunebrock-Mialon (MP of La République en Marche, centre party, for Allier) and Bastien Lachaud (MP of La France insoumise, extreme left party, for Seine-Saint-Denis) as co-rapporteurs. The mission published a communication and a synthesis in December 2019.

In March 2021, Laurence Vanceunebrock tabled a bill in the National Assembly prohibiting practices aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. For her part, the Socialist Senator Marie-Pierre de la Gontrie tabled a bill in the Senate in June 2021.
The Vanceunebrock bill passed its first reading in the National Assembly on 5 October and was adopted by the Senate after intense debate. The Senate voted the proposal on Tuesday 7 December, with 305 votes in favour and 28 against. Automatic line return
The adopted law creates an offence punishable by two years imprisonment and a fine of 30,000 euros for "repeated practices, behaviour or statements aimed at modifying or repressing the sexual orientation or gender identity, real or assumed, of a person and having the effect of altering his or her physical or mental health".

A joint committee responsible for proposing a text on the provisions of the bill still under discussion was convened on 8 December 2021.
The Minister for Citizenship, Marlène Schiappa, then announced that she was entrusting Miviludes with a mission on these "conversion therapies", to "explain, exemplify and quantify the phenomenon, analysing in particular its sectarian dimension", according to a press release, and will have to formulate "operational proposals within a month to perfect the means of combating these practices". Miviludes, the body responsible for combating sectarian aberrations attached to the Ministry of the Interior, will be assisted by the assistance and intervention cell for sectarian aberrations (CAIMADES), attached to the Central Office for the Repression of Violence against Persons (ORCVP), and by the Central Office for the Fight against Environmental and Public Health Violations (OCLAESP).

A round table on conversion therapies took place in November 2021 at the EHESS; the video recording of the debates is online.

Anne-Laure Zwilling
  • October 2021: Report on sexual violence and abuse in the Catholic Church

Revelations of rape, abuse, sexual violence and paedophilia in the Catholic Church have put the institution in a difficult situation for many years. The French Bishops’ Conference has already produced several reports on the fight against paedophilia in the Church.
In February 2019, the French Bishops’ Conference (CEF) and the Conference of Religious of France (CORREF) had mandated a commission, the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church (CIASE).
Composed of 22 people with diverse philosophical and religious opinions (believers of different confessions, non-believers, agnostics or atheists), not including religious, and chaired by Jean-Marc Sauvé, honorary vice-president of the Council of State, the commission made its report public on 5 October.
The commission estimates that 216,000 minors have been sexually abused by clerics or religious since 1950, and 330,000 if one includes those assaulted by laypeople working in Church institutions (teachers, supervisors, youth movement leaders...). These figures are the result of a statistical estimate with a margin of plus or minus 50,000 people.
The Commission first took 6,500 calls from victims or relatives, and then conducted about 250 long hearings or research interviews. It also analysed the archives, in an attempt to discover the institutional and cultural mechanisms that may have fostered paedocriminality.
The Commission’s report ends with some forty recommendations.
This report has provoked a great deal of reaction: by revealing the extent of the problem, but also by revealing that the Church has frequently refused to take into account the cases of which it has been made aware, this report seems quite damning for the ecclesial institution.

For more information:
 ICASE Final Report, Les violences sexuelles dans l’Eglise catholique, France 1950-2020 (Sexual Violence in the Catholic Church, France 1950-2020) (in French, will be available in English by the end of the year)
 Summary of the report
 Collection of testimonies from victims, De victimes à témoins (From victims to witnesses)
 Interview with Jean-Marc Sauvé, Etudes, October 2021

Anne-Laure Zwilling
  • August 2021: Principles of the Republic and religions

The Law n° 2021-1109 reinforcing the respect of the principles of the Republic (Loi confortant le respect des principes de la République) was promulgated on 24 August 2021.

  • April 2021: End of life

A proposed law giving the right to a free and chosen end of life was debated on Thursday 8 April in the French National Assembly. Led by MP Olivier Falorni of the Radical Left Party, it would allow in certain cases "any capable person of age" to request "medical assistance" to die, "through active help".
Currently, physician-assisted suicide is illegal in France. The Leonetti-Claeys law on patients’ rights and the end of life prohibits "unreasonable obstruction" and "artificial prolongation of life" by the medical profession. Passed in 2016, this law allows deep and continuous sedation until the patient’s death.
The parliamentary debates could not succeed : some MPs are opposed to this law. Some conservative MPs tabled nearly 3000 amendments, while the time allowed to complete the debate was only one day.
Health Minister Olivier Véran considers that a better application of the Claeys-Leonetti law would be preferable to a new law. Several ministers also believe that in the midst of a health crisis, the time is not right for this debate.
The parliamentary debates could not be concluded: only the first article could be discussed. The bill should be put back on the agenda of the National Assembly, but it is not sure that there will be an opportunity before the end of the legislature. However, the majority of MPs support this bill, which is also supported by a large part of public opinion (as the Vincent Lambert case had shown), while the text has been opposed by the Roman Catholic Church.

See also:
 Law n° 2016-87 of 2 February 2016 creating new rights for patients and people at the end of life (Loi n° 2016-87 du 2 février 2016 créant de nouveaux droits en faveur des malades et des personnes en fin de vie), also named Leonetti-Claeys Law
 Survey The French view of end of life (Le regard des Français sur la fin de vie), IFOP for Association pour le Droit de Mourir dans la Dignité, April 2021
 Survey The French and the end of life (Les Français et la fin de vie), IFOP for "Soulager mais pas tuer", March 2021
 The Roman Catholic Church and the end of life

Anne-Laure Zwilling
  • April 2021: The headscarf again

The 14 April 2021, the Court of Cassation confirmed (in the case of an employee dismissed for wearing a headscarf covering her hair, ears and neck) that an employer may only restrict the individual freedoms of their employees (in this case the freedom of religion) if this restriction is justified by the nature of the task to be performed and meets a professional requirement that is essential, decisive and proportionate to the aim sought.

Anne-Laure Zwilling
  • April 2021: Law consolidating the principles of the Republic

The Senate’s examination of the draft law reinforcing the respect of the principles of the Republic has started on 30 March
This draft law had been announced in 2020 by the President of the Republic Emmanuel Macron.
During the first passage of the law through the National Assembly in February 2021, Jews, Christians and Muslims had expressed their concern about the text.
Before the debate in the Senate, Christians again expressed their fears in a statement published on 10 March. The Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox leaders of France had considered that this text went against the separation of the Churches and the State operated by the 1905 law and "risked undermining the fundamental freedoms of worship and association".
Many religious groups are organised under the general regime of association (known as the 1901 law). The bill encourages them to register under the 1905 regime, which is more transparent in accounting and financial terms, in exchange for tax or financial benefits. However, this change in organisation is accompanied by obligations (such as the certification of accounts) and controls, which raise concerns about religious freedom.
In response, the Minister of the Interior assured that the text "in no way threatened the freedom of religions" (see Le Monde), and that the 1905 law had already undergone numerous modifications without its principles being called into question.
On 25 March, the Commission nationale consultative des droits de l’homme (National Consultative Commission on Human Rights) issued a second opinion on the bill. It reiterated that the text should be revised. In particular, it is opposed to the introduction of a double declaration system for associations and religious unions and would also like to see the obligation of neutrality extended only to persons in direct contact with public service users. It also makes recommendations on the conditions for implementing religious practice.
The Senate’s examination of the bill, which was adopted on first reading by the deputies in February, began on 30 March. More than 600 amendments were tabled.
On the same day, the Conference of Religious Leaders in France (created in 2010 and bringing together six leaders responsible for Buddhism, Christian churches - Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant -, Islam and Judaism) published a tribune on secularism.

Anne-Laure Zwilling
  • March 2021: Local law in Alsace and Moselle

An article in Rue89 provides the state of the question of local law in Alsace and Moselle, in which the legal status of religions is specific see Organising the faiths : local systems. This point emerged during the debate in the National Assembly that preceded the vote on the bill against religious separatism.

Anne-Laure Zwilling
  • February 2021: Charter of Principles for Islam in France

The French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) officially adopted in February the "Charter of Principles for Islam in France". It was made official during a meeting with the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron. Containing ten articles, the document regularly refers to Koranic suras, and proclaims equality between men and women, the pre-eminence of the laws of the Republic over religious convictions, the rejection of foreign state control, the condemnation of antisemitic acts, homophobia and misogyny, recognises freedom of conscience and the freedom to change religion.

Five of the nine federations that make up the CFCM have signed the charter. However, CFCM officials say all federations will sign it.

Further information: Sauvaget, Bernadette, “Islam : la charte du CFCM, une victoire politique pour l’Elysée”, Libération, 18 January 2021

Anne-Laure Zwilling
  • February 2021: Religious separatism and Republican principes

The willingness shown by the Head of State to fight against "religious separatism" has been concretised in a draft law confirming the respect of the principles of the Republic". The bill was sent on 17 November to the presidents of the National Assembly and the Senate. In December, a series of hearings were held in the National Assembly in the framework of the special committee charged with examining the bill. The draft was then examined by the Council of Ministers on 9 December, and finally in Parliament in January 2021.

On this occasion, the deputies discussed the religious neutrality of the elected representatives. Two amendments (proposed by the radical left-wing party La France insoumise and the majority party La République en marche) brought this debate. The aim was to extend the principle of neutrality, which prohibits public service employees from manifesting their religious affiliation during the exercise of their duties, to elected representatives, and in particular to prohibit them from attending a religious ceremony. Currently, elected officials are not subject to religious neutrality. A tacit rule, supported by case law, provides that an elected official participating in a religious ceremony as a representative of a public administration (and not as an elected official) must abstain from any personal mark of adherence to the religion. But nothing is precisely written in the law and the vagueness persists. Following these debates, the amendments were finally rejected.

Nevertheless, the representatives of religious denominations do not hide their concern about this project, which they consider to have a negative impact on all religions that is disproportionate to its possible interest in combating radical Islamism. Many feel that it casts an unjustified suspicion on the whole religious and associative world. The spirit of the text is that of a special treatment of religions in a security perspective, which makes secularism evolve, from a regulation of the organisation of religions with respect for the freedom of all under the supervision of a neutral State to a model of diffusion of republican values defined by the State.

See also: - Discourse of the President Emmanuel Macron
 Cécile Chambraud, "Mosquées, imams… Les propositions de Macron pour un islam ’libéré des influences étrangères’" », Le Monde, 2 October 2020
 Alexandre Lemarié, Olivier Faye, “Emmanuel Macron présente son plan contre le séparatisme islamique, Le Monde, 2 October 2020
 FranceTv info

Anne-Laure Zwilling
  • January 2021: Training of imams

The year 2020 has been dominated by the head of state’s announced intention to fight "religious separatism", which Emmanuel Macron finally presented publicly in October 2020. Although Islam in itself is neither exclusively nor explicitly targeted, many aspects of the law may concern Islam, namely: the neutrality of the public service is reinforced; and subsidies to associations will be subject to conditions; there will be limitation of home schooling and reinforcement of secular public schools; also measures on inheritance (ensuring gender equality), polygamy and forced marriage; adjustments concerning the exercise of worship.

As concerns Islam, the measures envisioned by Emmanuel Macron have 3 aims: to free Islam in France from foreign influences, to stabilise the governance of mosques, and to train in France imams who promote “an Islam that is fully compatible with the values of the Republic”. This mainly concerns the system of seconded imams from three countries with which the French State has signed agreements (150 Turks, 120 Algerians and 30 Moroccans, out of some 2,500 mosques) working in France and being paid by their country of origin.

In this perspective, the CFCM issued in November a document entitled Training France’s religious leaders and combating radicalisation: A priority for French Islam (Former les cadres religieux de France et lutter contre la radicalisation : Une priorité de l’islam de France). The president Emmanuel Macron received the presidents of the CFCM component federations at the Elysée Palace to review the progress of the project of creation of the National Council of Imams (Conseil national des imams, CNI). The CNI is setting up a procedure for approving imams at national level according to their religious knowledge, pedagogical skills and human qualities. However, the idea of a council of imams to regulate access to the function raises questions. Each mosque is free to recruit whoever it wishes as an imam. There is no possibility to determine who could give the CFCM a monopoly on the certification of imams, and no guarantee that mosques would feel concerned by this label. The French public authorities cannot really get involved in this strictly religious question without infringing the law of separation of church and state.

 Cécile Chambraud, "Mosquées, imams… Les propositions de Macron pour un islam ‘libéré des influences étrangères’", Le Monde, 3 October 2020;
 Alexandre Lemarié, Olivier Faye, "Emmanuel Macron présente son plan contre le séparatisme islamique", Le Monde, 2 October 2020.

Anne-Laure Zwilling

D 16 December 2021    AAnne-Laure Zwilling

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