les Davey de France

Alan and Pat live and work in Bordeaux. Alan is a pastor and Pat was a nurse. Now we work with UFM worldwide. Read on! (If you'd like to know what took us to Bordeaux, then start with the archives from September 2004)

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Evangelicals in France

 It's not an easy time. The government wants to tackle youth radicalisation, so it's targeting religious groups with a new proposed law. This was originally called the anti-separatism law, but is now renamed the law for the reinforcement of republican principles.

The problem in France is that Evangelicals are seen as being relatively new in the country - many churches have been founded essentially since the Second World War, and as an import from US culture - in France dubbed Anglo-Saxon. Recent US history has not encouraged a positive view of US evangelical politics, especially if you have limited exposure to real life French evangelicals, so there's a lot of ignorance around.

Thus our Minister of the Interior (equivalent of the Home Secretary) quite regularly gives the most horrifying TV interviews saying things like "anyone must be able to state formally that the laws of the republic are superior to the laws of any god", and "evangelicalism is a big problem, of course, obviously different to radical islam".

The law targets 1905 Associations. In 1905 a law for the separation of state and church had widespread support from protestant and evangelical churches because it guaranteed freedom for churches from state interference and also freedom for France from interference from any politically powerful church. It gave churches the right to register as 1905 Associations and to give tax relief to their donors. This right is extended to any group formed to organise worship, whether christian, buddhist, muslim, whatever. So many churches are registered as 1905 associations and most 1905 associations are in fact churches. Most mosques are registered as 1901 associations, subject to fewer conditions and not eligible for donor tax relief.

The law proposes that associations be banned from making any statement that is seen as counter-republican, and also states that any gift from overseas of more than 10 000 Euros should be declared and should make the association liable to professional auditing. The target is pretty obvious but the law as currently framed will miss its target and hit churches hard instead.

The Protestant Federation of France and the Conseil National des Evangéliques de France have been making representations to government and have had the support of the Roman Catholic Church, too, so there is hope that the law will be amended in such a way as to preserve religious liberty.

Otherwise I can imagine many churches dissolving their 1905 associations and declaring themselves as 1901 associations, with greater freedom.

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