Reacting to the news from France that a compulsory set of secular principles is to be taught at every state school, DHI chairman Luca Volontè stated; “Even 224 years after their violent revolution, it seems that the French government will not be content until it has sought out and eradicated every alternative of thought to its own, state-sanctioned affirmation of secular faith in an atheist republic. Under these new ‘commandments’, parents and pupils of religious faith will not be permitted to debate, question, or disassociate themselves from the compulsory assertion of these secular principles. All authority over a child’s education and future has been seized from the parent and placed in the sole reserve of the State. This move marks the latest sinister step towards the overtly totalitarian goal of making the government the ‘parent of last resort’ of all French children.”
At the same time that French schools are being told to remove religious symbols from prominent display, the fifteen Articles that compose the secular charter are now required to be given pride of place in every classroom. The introduction of these ‘principles of enlightenment’ and the compulsory lessons that will accompany them, have been welcomed by French secularists, though some believe the proselytisation of schools does not go far enough; original proposals from the ‘High Council of Integration’ recommended employing dedicated teachers of secularism – a political commissary role first used in France during the Revolution to forcibly subjugate anyone who opposed the Republican uprising.
In apparent contravention of the otherwise commonly accepted rights of freedom of thought, conscience and religion, children will not only be forced to attend teachings of secularism, but will be restrained from debating or questioning the principles themselves, as the charter states: “No student can invoke their political or religious convictions, in order to dispute a teacher’s right to address a question on the syllabus.”
Warning of the wider effects on French society, Mr Volontè commented; “If students are repeatedly taught that other people’s faith counts for nothing at school, they are going to grow up thinking by extension that religion has no part to play in society, and those who practice a faith have no role or intrinsic worth. Instead of cultivating an understanding of the diverse nature of French society, of the communities around them, children are being encouraged to reject anything that is not explicitly sanctioned by secularist teaching. France itself has historically seen what division and hatred such aggressively secular republics create, and it is deeply depressing to see a nation built on the expressed desire for liberty continue down this authoritarian path.”