The Policy of Institutionalization of Laicism in French Republic at the beginning of the 21st century

Keywords: communitarianism, laicism, Observatory for Secularism, secularism, French Republic


The purpose of the study is to consider the peculiarities of implementing the principle of laicism in the Republic at the beginning of the 21st century, based on the reports of relevant French government commissions ‒ that is, to find out what was the reason for creating the Commission for the Reflection on the Adaptation of the Principle of laicism in the Republic (‘the Stasi Commission’), the Secularity Mission of the High Council for Integration, the Observatory for Secularism, and the Advisory Body on Laicism, what the main tasks were set before them by the President or the government, and to what extent the named institutions managed to execute their plans.

Scientific novelty. The policy of institutionalization of laicism has not yet been fully covered in historiography, as the scholars mainly focused on the philosophical basis, theoretical origins of French secularism, and the historical stages of its evolution during the 19th ‒ 20th centuries.

Conclusions. ‘Laicism’ (French: laïcité) is the French model of secularism, which means to imply a strict separation of church and state. After 1989, the third stage in the development of laicism began, associated with its adaptation to new challenges caused by the growing ethnoreligious diversity of the population. Responding to the threat of communitarianism, the government started to implement the policy of institutionalization of laicism.

Jacques Chirac stated that the problem was in violating the fundamental principle of the Republic – laicism. Therefore, on July 3, 2003, Bernard Stasi got a mandate to create a Commission for the Reflection on the Adaptation of the Principle of laicism in the Republic. The keynote of its activity became the slogan that the Republic was grounded on the principle of laicism, which was based on three values: freedom of conscience, equality in religious and spiritual rights, and neutrality of political power. The main recommendations were the adoption of the ‘Charter of Secularism’ and the prohibition of visible religious attributes in state secondary educational institutions. In 2006-2007, the High Council for Integration prepared the ‘Charter of Secularism in Public Services’, which became the first document of its kind.

The positive experience encouraged J. Chirac to create a permanent advisory committee on issues of laicism affiliated to the government. Thus, on March 25, 2007, the establishment of the Observatory for Secularism was announced, which, due to N. Sarkozy’s lack of interest, did not hold a meeting until 2013. Instead, a standing 'Secularity' Mission affiliated to the High Council for Integration was established and prepared three dossiers in 2010-2012. Convened on April 8, 2013, the Observatory for Secularism until 2021 had carried out thorough work, which could be grouped according to the following vectors: codification of the norms of laicism (working out of numerous Charters), educational work (publication of handbooks, training courses, introductory videos), analytical work (analysis of history, legal norms and regional features of laicism). Since the terrorist threats of 2020 forced E. Macron to take an even tougher approach to protecting republican norms, the Observatory for Secularism in 2021 was replaced by the Interministerial Committee on Secularism with broader powers, supplemented by the Advisory Body on Laicism.

The conducted analysis of numerous initiatives proves that, in an attempt to adhere precisely to the principle of laicism, the Republic came to a delicate line of turning secularism into a kind of cult, in particular through attempts to form the so-called ‘new civil and republican rituals’.


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How to Cite
Sypko, B. (2022). The Policy of Institutionalization of Laicism in French Republic at the beginning of the 21st century. Eminak: Scientific Quarterly Journal, (1(37), 120-134.
Contemporary History