Free Will, Religious Liberty, and a Partial Defense of the French Approach to Religious Expression in Public Schools
79 Pages Posted: 16 Jul 2008
Date Written: 2005
Despite current differences over a certain war in the Middle East, France and the United States share a common heritage of personal liberty that infuses the legal culture in both countries. Americans may not be quite as enthusiastic as their French brethren about the collectivist ideal of fraternitý, but the more individualistic principles of libertý and ýgalitý form the core of American conceptions of personal freedom and provide the central justification for constitutional limits on the exercise of governmental power. One particularly striking manifestation of the similarity between French and American conceptions of personal liberty is the approach to the relationship between government and religion adopted by both countries. Separation of church and state is the ostensible constitutional norm in both countries. In the United States, this approach is codified in the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which the U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted as requiring all government actions to reflect both a secular purpose and a secular effect.4 In France, this principle is codified in the constitutional declaration that "France shall be an indivisible, secular, democratic and social Republic."
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation