Working together for secularism: A joint declaration by IHEU’s French member organizations

  • post Type / Members and partners
  • Date / 21 December 2010

The National Federation of Free Thought (Fédération nationale de la Libre Pensée – FNLP), the National League for Popular Education (Ligue de l’Enseignement et pour l’Éducation populaire – LDE), the Rationalist Union (Union rationaliste – UR), the Movement Europe and Secularism (Mouvement Europe et Laïcité – CAEDEL), French Member Organizations of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (Union Internationale Humaniste et Laïque – IHEU) have published the following join declaration (en français):

Working together for secularism: A joint declaration by IHEU’s French member organizations

Our organizations have different backgrounds and different goals. Past and present struggles have shown the diversity of our approaches on present topics, and yet our organizations are willing to emphasize their deep agreement on essential questions that the secularist movement is facing.

The 1905 law is constitutional

Confronted with the findings of the Machelon Report, to insinuations and questions from the Government and to different mistakes made by local authorities, CAEDEL, LDE, UR and FNLP are willing to state clearly that they consider the Law of December 9th, 1905 on Separation of the Churches and the State as a constitutional safeguard of the freedom of conscience. Along with all the regulations on freedom of trade unions, political liberties and freedom of association and meeting, freedom of the press, this law makes up an indissoluble unit of Constitutional Law. It guarantees a strict republican equality in the field of opinions.

By enacting the principle of separation between religions and the State, i.e. by separating what is the realm of ideological and metaphysical concept from political, social and cultural reality, an essential liberty of the rights of individuals has been established. The absolute freedom of conscience is the affirmation of the rights of individuals against communitarian duties. Our organizations reject the idea that the multicultural nature of society should be made institutional by establishing rules allowing delays in natural evolutions in modern society.

There is no genuine democracy without the guarantee of the absolute freedom of conscience.

There should not be any challenging of this inalienable right, the foundation of human liberty. Everyone should be free to follow his/her path as he/she likes.

Secularism is emancipating

In the effort of liberating the individual, the establishment of public, secular and compulsory education has been an essential step forward to promote a knowledge freed from obscurantism. That is why the secularist movement has always supported all public funds being allocated to education for all (schools and universities). Our steady and resolute opposition to the Debré Law of December 31st, 1959 is the public landmark of this opinion.

But the forces of reaction, in the political, religious and social fields, have made every effort to get their revenge.

In an immense effort to build the Republic, public education has educated whole generations not to fight against opinions submitted to a free debate but to refuse dogmas imposed on human conscience. The establishment of the principle of state monopoly to deliver university degrees gives the tool to guarantee this provision everywhere. We would like to remind that the state monopoly to deliver university degrees (established in 1880) relatively protects our country against obscurantism circulated by neo-creationists concerning the theory of Evolution, against religious dogmas concerning social behaviours condemning the fight against AIDS, etc., in public education.

The recent move of the Government to demolish that principle for the benefit, to date, of Catholic and Protestant schools is a major concern for our Organizations. That is why, with different forms, those Organizations have publicly marked their opposition to the Kouchner-Pope Benedict Agreement. The ruling given by the Council of State does not invalidate the fundamental question of our legal actions; it limits the claims of the Vatican but the danger is still there.

Today, the growing recognition of the role played by the private sector of education can be seen in the increase of public funds allocated to it under different forms and the weakening of Public Education through cuts in its resources, more cuts in the allocated number of jobs and the implementation of standards of the private sector.

The Minister of Public Education plans to cut 16,000 teaching jobs for school year 2011, including 5,000 jobs in secondary schools, 8,000 jobs in primary schools, 2,000 “Full Time Equivalent” students in Education currently being trained in schools. More than 50,000 teaching positions have been abolished since 2007. From 1996 to 2010, the number of teachers’ positions opened in competitive examinations has been downsized by 45% to 89%, depending on the branch of learning.

From pre-school/ nursery school to university, including IUFM [training colleges] and CNRS [Research Institutes], secondary schools and Graduate Schools, there is a will to transfer the responsibility and the duty of the state and government institutions to the market-oriented private sector, whether religious or profit-making.

The “Education Voucher” would be directed at the same object. Parents are given an “Education Voucher” by the government, which is money for school fees; parents choose the school and the form of education they like for their children. Education is subsidized – no longer schools that become “free”: fees, pedagogy…and therefore schools are made competitive economically as well as in the field of education! This system is partially implemented in a series of countries: USA, Great Britain, etc. This is a preparation for privatization of education, dismantling a public service for the purpose of exploitation by religious and corporate business groups.

The increasing number of private schools being used as examination venues for national degrees (Secondary school exam, university degrees, etc…) is a real violation of the absolute freedom of conscience of teachers, their civil servant status as well as the families’ and students’ philosophical and/or religious beliefs

 LDE, UR, FNLP, CAEDEL want to express their formal opposition to this process, under any circumstances, and are willing to launch a series of initiatives to lead in common the necessary actions, confronted to the multiplication of onslaughts of different kinds which endanger the finality of the aim of public education in the service of the emancipation for all.

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