Dn this exclusive interview he gave to Info Chrétienne, Hervé Mariton, deputy for Drôme, co-author of the petition which protests against the vade-mecum on secularism of the Association of Mayors of France, in particular challenges the vision of society and elected officials underpinned by the document.
What impact do you think this petition could have?
The petition was launched on Wednesday 25 November. It is addressed to everyone, we identify the citizen signatories and the elected signatories, and the idea is to submit it within a fortnight to François Baroin, president of the AMF. At the very least, each elected official, each Frenchman should hear that this is an extremely questionable interpretation of secularism, and if the AMF could correct the situation it would still be better. What is gained is that the AMF has already stressed that this does not bind anyone. It's already that. But that could have made the situation more complicated for the mayors who wanted to hang on to this document.
As an elected representative of the Republic, how do you receive these recommendations from the AMF?
This handbook, which is larger than the case of the Christmas cribs, starts from two a priori from my erroneous point of view: the totally foreign character of the public sphere with the religious world, and the idea of the absence of identity of the elected officials. But elected officials are not "institutions on legs", they have a present, a past, a culture, each one says what he wishes to say about his political commitments, his family life, his religious convictions. I think it's not a good idea to portray religious matters too much in monstrance, but they don't have to be necessarily hidden. I see this idea that an elected official would be either the anonymous spokesperson for his party or the disembodied one of an institution. It is neither one nor the other: an elected official is first of all a man, a woman, with his density, his identity, and religion is part of this identity. Its affirmation is obviously not obligatory whatever the convictions or absence of conviction, but it would be a serious attack on the freedom to consider that this affirmation would be prohibited, and it is one of the problems of this vade-mecum. This would amount to prohibiting an elected official from saying that he is married, that he has children, on the grounds that private life is no concern. The intrusion into religious life is unhealthy, as in family life, but if someone wants to say something, in the name of what to prevent it? There is no reason to prevent him from signing himself in a religious ceremony, for example.
Is this not the consequence of a restrictive reading of the law of separation of Church and State?
The law of 1905 was at that time a violent and not very tolerant text. In fact, he only cemented the national community with time. We must be very careful not to have a fundamentalist and original reading of the law of 1905 because suddenly we would fall back into the climate of the time with the church doors sunk in, the exclusion of goods, people who send their children to study abroad, etc. The AMF seems to have forgotten that many French people do not want this climate to be restored. It is at the same time a lack of culture, if not an intention. Moreover, it is a rather curious vision of the world, made up of automation and mechanization; whereas the whole value of the policy is its human density, if not as much to put a software which, him, will not sign itself… There are a certain number of people who are ready to make implausible errors. During the preparation in the National Assembly of the law prohibiting religious symbols in public schools, which is a good law, we came very close to this ban for private schools under contract. In the past there have been rants about the prohibition of religious symbols in the premises in which childminders welcome children. As if we were going to police nanny salons… French society is capable of generating ideas as mind-boggling as that…
How can secularism avoid falling into anti-religion?
It is an important issue of freedom. I am willing to understand the tensions and exasperations of French society, which, for fear of Islam, let us be clear, can enter into a fundamentally anti-religious discourse and attitude. We must be able to respond to the issues, challenges and problems that Islam sometimes poses without being in an anti-Islam tone. And then, we must be extremely careful that, in a sincere mechanism or in a secularist pretext, France does not lock itself in an anti-religious practice. At the end of the day, it is the freedom of worship that can be in question. I think that much more than a doctrine, what we need is more respect and politeness. The text is entirely in the idea that secularism is the only element of emancipation. There is an ideological charge here.
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