'The Belltowers of the Future': MOSQUE FINANCING AND FRENCH LAÏCITÉ
THE FINANCIAL CRISIS OF 2008: FRENCH AND AMERICAN RESPONSES - PROCEEDINGS OF THE 2010 FRANCO-AMERICAN LEGAL SEMINAR, p. 109, Martin A. Rogoff, Michael Dixon & Eric Bither, eds, 2011
26 Pages Posted: 29 Feb 2012
Date Written: January 1, 2011
The traditional French concept of laïcité, or secularism, long a pillar of the French republic, today finds itself challenged by a number of issues that arise as its population grows increasingly diverse in ethnic and religious background. Most visibly, certain manifestations of Muslim religion, whether in the construction of mosques or the wearing of full veils, have met with controversial responses in French society and government. This article aims to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of current French policies and practices, using ongoing debates about mosque financing as a sort of case study. It begins by examining three model legal approaches to these issues: 1) strict separation, as implicitly suggested by the 2004 headscarf ban; 2) a looser interpretation of existing law, allowing for some government subsidies to religious organizations, as suggested by Sarkozy in his 2004 book; and 3) exclusion of Muslims from the system altogether, as suggested by debates surrounding the recent move to ban the burqa. The article then turns back to the issue of mosque financing, which remains very much in flux, in order to evaluate the benefits and pitfalls of each model. Finally, the article applies the concept of “civil religion,” as articulated by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Émile Durkheim, and Robert Bellah, to analyze the dynamics underpinning each of these models.
Keywords: France, French law, comparative law, religion, church and state, secularism, laïcité, freedom of religion, establishment of religion, civil religion, Islam, headscarf, mosque financing, Council of State, Rousseau, Durkheim, Bellah, Sarkozy, Fifth Republic
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