Foreword: Laicite in Comparative Perspective

Mark L. Movsesian

St. John's University School of Law


Journal of Catholic Legal Studies, Vol. 49, 2010
St. John's University School of Law Research Paper Series No. 11-002

This essay is the foreword to a conference, "Laïcité in Comparative Perspective," which drew together scholars from Europe and the United States to compare the French model of church-state relations, laïcité, with models that exist in other countries. The essay makes three main points about laïcité. First, it argues that laïcité has multiple meanings that do not always overlap. For example, "legal" laïcité, the principles that derive from legal texts, must be distinguished from "philosophical" or "political" laïcité. Second, it demonstrates that conflicts about laïcité are particularly bitter in the context of public education. Both pro- and anti-religionists view public schools as crucial battlegrounds for shaping future citizens; for both sides, the stakes are very high. Finally, it suggests that the way to understand laïcité – and church-state relations in the United States – is to focus on the historical compromises that give abstract doctrine real-world meaning.

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Date posted: March 21, 2011  

Suggested Citation

Movsesian, Mark L., Foreword: Laicite in Comparative Perspective (2010). Journal of Catholic Legal Studies, Vol. 49, 2010. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1783824

Contact Information

Mark L. Movsesian (Contact Author)
St. John's University School of Law ( email )
8000 Utopia Parkway
Jamaica, NY 11439
United States
718-990-5650 (Phone)
718-990-2199 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://www.stjohns.edu/academics/graduate/law/faculty/profiles/Movsesian
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