Letter: France is right to maintain its model of secularism

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French President Emmanuel Macron does not need the help of an American. No one better than him to defend the principles of the French Republic and the Enlightenment. He and, I would add, his Minister of the Interior, Gérald Moussa Darmanin, whose maternal grandfather, an Algerian non-commissioned officer, fought in the Resistance. Olivier Roy’s imperfect account of secularism (Avis, November 9) prompted me to write in solidarity.

The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, 1789, guarantees freedom of opinion. Blasphemy ceased to be a crime in 1791, barely 25 years after the last execution when a man was tortured and beheaded, his body burned with a copy of Voltaire Philosophical Dictionary nailed to his chest. France remembers it, as well as the Albigensian crusade and the massacre of the Protestants of Saint-Barthélemy. The separation of church and state came later, in 1905, expressing what Professor Roy calls “secularized conservative Christian values.” This would be news for free thinkers like Georges Clémenceau, Prime Minister at the time of the Treaty of Versailles after the First World War, and also for legions of anticlerical and socialist radicals, and probably also for the Dreyfus family and their supporters whose struggles have done a lot. to achieve the result.

Professor Roy objects that women did not have the right to vote at the time. This is an anachronistic cavil. Women did not vote in England on that date. In the United States, women began voting in some state and local elections in the 1870s, but national suffrage did not come until 1920.

In France, in 1905, most French feminists, themselves Republican, did not demand suffrage. They shared, with virtually all secular men, the fear that women would vote as their priests asked them to and thus endanger democratic government. Opinion was much the same in Italy, and women were not fully expressed in either country until after World War II. Their piety was then seen as guaranteeing an anti-Communist vote. Professor Roy adds that homosexuality has remained a crime. It is certainly not an enlightened view, but homosexuals could worship however they liked and religious fanaticism would not lessen the violence against them.

Professor Roy is arguably right in saying that insane young people, especially the petty criminals among them, need little proselytizing to revel in contempt for women and non-believers or to engage in a massacre sanctioned by the law. religion. Mr. Macron is right to seek integration based on freedom, equality and fraternity. It is not certain that British multiculturalism is better at preserving freedom or order.

Kate Auspitz
Author of ‘The Radical Bourgeoisie: The League of Education and the Origins of the Third Republic’
Somerville, MA, United States

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