France’s education minister Vincent Peillon has called for “secular morality” classes to be introduced in schools, leading to a stinging accusation from his predecessor that his announcement echoes an appeal by disgraced Vichy leader Marshal Pétain.
France’s Education Minister Vincent Peillon was embroiled in an unholy row on Tuesday over the matter of “secular morality” in state schools.
France and the principle of laïcité
The word laïcité, roughly translated as secularism, has no exact equivalent in English. It refers to a core principle of the French Republic, which had its origins in the French Revolution and was consecrated by a 1905 law separating church and state. The law protects the right to freedom of worship, but rules that religion should play no role in government or public institutions, particularly state schools. The principle of laïcité enjoys broad backing across France’s political spectrum and is passionately defended when the position of religion in French society arises. In 2004 a controversial law was passed banning the wearing of religious symbols, including muslim veils, in schools. This led some to portray France’s reinforement of laïcité simply as an attack on the influence of Islam in the country. Many Muslims in France supported the law however.
Date created : 2012-09-04