La Laïcité : Une Exception Française ?

La France s’apprête à célébrer le centenaire de la loi du 9 décembre 1905 de séparation des Eglises et de l’Etat, alors qu’elle vient de connaître deux semaines de troubles sérieux dans ses banlieues. Bien qu’il n’y ait pas de lien direct entre les deux événements, les controverses renouvelées autour de la laïcité et de l’Islam illustrent les passions qu’a toujours provoquées en France la relation entre la religion et l’Etat.

C’était déjà vrai au moyen-âge, où les légistes de Philippe le Bel s’évertuaient à asseoir la prééminence du pouvoir royal sur l’Eglise de France. Ce furent ensuite les sanglantes guerres de religion entre catholiques et protestants. La Révolution Française, nourrie par l’esprit des Lumières allait enfin jeter les bases de la liberté de conscience et de religion, tout en nourrissant un conflit durable avec le catholicisme traditionnel. Une organisation plus équilibrée des rapports entre les Eglises et l’Etat devait être provisoirement trouvée, avec le Concordat conclu en 1801 entre Bonaparte et Pie VII et encore appliqué aujourd’hui en Alsace et dans une partie de la Lorraine.

Tout au long du XIXème siècle, cependant, la place de la religion catholique dans l’Etat n’a cessé de donner lieu à de rudes combats, notamment à propos de l’enseignement, entre cléricaux et anti-cléricaux, qui exprimaient en réalité un conflit plus fondamental entre partisans de la République et défenseurs d’un retour à l’ordre ancien.

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