On the initiative of IHEU member organization Libre Pensée, a meeting of the Estates General for Secularism was convened in Paris on 9 December 2006. The Estates General discovered that over €10m a year is being diverted from public funds to the churches, in contravention of the 1905 French law of separation of church and state.
“The Republic does not recognize, does not salary nor subsidize any religion” (Article 2 of the Law of 9 December 1905)
10 billion €uros of public funds embezzled for the benefit of the Roman Catholic Church! 10 billion €uros stolen every year from the secular Republic!
10 December, 2005: 12,000 free thinkers, secularists, unionists, labour activists, freemasons, democrats and republicans, in the broadest unity on the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of the 1905 law, took to the streets of Paris to demand the defence and the promotion of the law of separation between Church and State. At the end of the demonstration, they decided to draw up secular inventories to identify all the violations of the principle of secularism, which provides that religion should be a strictly private matter and that public funds must only be allocated to the public system of education.
2006: on the initiative of the local federations of the Libre Pensée, secularists and republicans drew up an inventory of the municipal, departmental, regional budgets and all public authorities to identify the exact anti-secular situation in our country.
9 December 2006: gathered as the Estates General in defense of secularism in the Great Hall of Paris Labour, a venue symbolizing the union of the working class with republican democracy, delegates of free thinkers and secularists from all the regions of France combined the results of their survey. We came to the following conclusion:
Secularism is being flouted!
The result of the secularist survey is both instructive and distressing. The State pays €8.2 billion, municipalities give €530 million and regions and local authorities subsidize private – mainly Catholic – schools up to €499 million. In all, this amounts to a total sum of €9.2 billion of embezzled public funds to finance the schools of the few against the schools of the many. This is equivalent to the budget for more than 200,000 jobs (including social contributions), in effect stolen from the Department of Education.
Every aspect of public life is plundered to finance religions. Thus, €242 million are embezzled through tax exemptions favourable to religions, subsidies for pro-life associations and funding of the priests’ healthcare system. Nearly €100 million are unjustifiably paid for maintenance work for which departments, municipalities and regions have no responsibility. Throughout France, the housing of 16,000 Roman Catholic diocesan priests is paid for by local authorities for an estimated cost of €54 million.
The clerical laws of exception of Alsace Moselle and of the French Overseas Territories represent an anti-secular expenditure without just cause of €72 million. More than 2,000 priests are paid out of public funds to teach religion in state-owned schools. The monthly income of a Roman Catholic bishop in Alsace is €4,484.57, of a Catholic priest: €2,703.99, of a protestant minister: €3,150, of a Grand Rabbi: €2,916.07, paid out of public funds
The regulation known as the Martinière Circular (1966) allows religious associations to run business activities for profit. Thus the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris sells altar candles for more than two million Euros every year without paying tax to the State. The shortfall for public finances is €660,000!
More than 10 billion stolen from the secular Republic!
We repeatedly wrote to government ministries (Budget Ministers Nicolas Sarkozy and Jean-François Copé) to ask for information on the shortfall in the budget of the State caused by special tax exemptions in favour of religions. We received no reply. We warned public authorities on the procedures of the private Catholic TV channel KTO, which delivers illegal tax receipts to get tax exemptions. There again, we received no reply. It seems as if louts only live in suburbs and never in bishops’ palaces!
All these anti-secular provisions were established by Petain’s law of 25 December 1942. French citizens should know that Petain’s anti-secular laws (5 February 1942; 8 April 1942; 25 December 1942) were never repealed after the Liberation of France. They have set a precedent. When it comes to anti-secular regulation, Paris is still living under Vichy rule.
For comparison, income tax amounts to €49 billion a year and the national debt is €42 billion.
In France, 20% of income tax and a quarter of the national debt is given to the Roman Catholic Church every year!
It is time for a secularist mobilization!
On 9 December 2006, with the National Federation of the Libre Pensée, hundreds of secularists, trade unionists, labour activists, freemasons, democrats and republicans, from all over the country, gathered to collect their secular Books of Grievances in defense of the indivisible and secular Republic.
Among those who spoke: Gabriel Gaudy, General Secretary of the CGT-FO Paris Labor Council; Joachim Salamero, President of the National Federation of Libre Pensée; Jean-Michel Ducomte, President of the League of Education; Daniel Morfouace, Deputy Grand-Master of Grand Orient de France; Hubert Raguin, Federal Secretary of the FNECFP-FO on behalf of CGT-Force Ouvrière; Gérard Cambussat, President of Laïcité-Liberté; Philippe Foussier, President of the Comité-Laïcité-République; Jean-Marc Schiappa, President of IRELP (Research Institute of Libre Pensée); Yves-Henri Saulnier, national Secretary of the SNETAA-EIL trade union; Etienne Pion, Secretary of the Movement Europe and Secularism (Europe et Laïcité); Claude Champon, Vice-President of the Atheist Union (Union des Athées); Roger Lepeix, Member of the Executive Committee of IHEU; Christian Eyschen, General Secretary of the Libre Pensée. The CNAL (National Committee for Secularist Action) apologized for being absent and invited the Libre Pensée to attend all its meetings.
Together, the 500 delegates decided:
In defense of Secularism! Public funds must go exclusively to public state-owned schools!
Paris, 9 December, 2006