Religion in France is diversified. Freedom of religion and freedom of thought are guaranteed by virtue of the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. The Republic is based on the principle of laïcité (or "freedom of conscience") enforced by the 1880s Jules Ferry laws and the 1905 French law on the Separation of the Churches and the State. Catholic Church, the religion of a majority of French people, is no longer the state religion that it was before the French Revolution and throughout the various, non-republican regimes of the 19th century (the Restoration, the July Monarchy and the Second French Empire).
Major religions practised in France include the Catholic Church, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, various branches of Protestantism, Hinduism, Russian Orthodoxy, Armenian Christianity, and Sikhism amongst others, making it a multiconfessional country. While millions in France continue to attend religious services regularly, the overall level of observance is considerably lower than in the past. According to the Eurobarometer Poll conducted in 2010, 27% of French citizens responded that "they believe there is a God", 33% answered that "they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force", and 40% answered that "they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, God, or life force". This makes France one of the most irreligious countries in the world.
|Other religions and unspecified||2.5%||8%||2.3%||2.5%|
France guarantees freedom of religion as a constitutional right and the government generally respects this right in practice. A long history of violent conflict between groups led the state to break its ties to the Catholic Church early in the 1800s and adopt a strong commitment to maintaining a totally secular public sector.
Catholicism is the primary religion in France. During the Ancien Régime, France had traditionally been considered the Church's eldest daughter, and the King of France always maintained close links to the Pope. This led to various conflicts, in particular during the Reformation between Catholics and Huguenots (French Calvinists).
A strong Protestant population resided in France, primarily of Reformed confession. It was persecuted by the state for most of the time, with temporary periods of relative toleration. These wars continued throughout the 16th century, with the 1572 St. Bartholomew's Day massacre as its apex, until the 1598 Edict of Nantes issued by Henry IV.
For the first time, Huguenots were considered by the state as more than mere schismatics and heretics. The Edict of Nantes thus opened a path for secularism and tolerance. In offering general freedom of conscience to individuals, the edict offered many specific concessions to the Protestants, for instance, amnesty and the reinstatement of their civil rights, including the right to work in any field or for the State and to bring grievances directly to the king.
The 1598 Edict also granted the Protestants fifty places of safety (places de sûreté), which were military strongholds such as La Rochelle for which the king paid 180,000 écus a year, along with a further 150 emergency forts (places de refuge), to be maintained at the Huguenots' own expense. Such an innovative act of toleration stood virtually alone in a Europe (except for the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth) where standard practice forced the subjects of a ruler to follow whatever religion that the ruler formally adopted - the application of the principle of cuius regio, eius religio.
Religious conflicts resumed in the end of the 17th century, when Louis XIV, the "Sun King", initiated the persecution of Huguenots by introducing the dragonnades in 1681. This wave of violence intimidated the Protestants into converting to Catholicism. He made the policy official with the 1685 revocation of the Edict of Nantes. As a result, a large number of Protestants - estimates range from 200,000 to 500,000 - left France during the following two decades, seeking asylum in England, the United Provinces, Denmark, in the Protestant states of the Holy Roman Empire (Hesse, Brandenburg-Prussia, etc.), and European colonies in North America and South Africa.
On 17 January 1686, Louis XIV himself claimed that out of a Huguenot population of 800,000 to 900,000, only 1,000 to 1,500 had remained in France. A Camisard (Huguenot) rebellion broke out in 1702 in the Cevennes mountains.
The 1685 revocation of the Edict of Nantes created a state of affairs in France similar to that of virtually every other European country of the period, where only the majority state religion was tolerated. The experiment of religious toleration in Europe was effectively ended for the time being. In practice, the revocation caused France to suffer a brain drain, as it lost a large number of skilled craftsmen, including key designers such as Daniel Marot.
Upon leaving France, Huguenots took with them knowledge of important techniques and production. This had a significant effect in those regions to which they relocated, on the quality of the silk, plate glass, cabinet making, and silversmithing for which the Huguenots were renowned. Some rulers, such as Frederick Wilhelm of Brandenburg who issued the Edict of Potsdam, encouraged the Protestants to flee and settle in their countries.
During the French Revolution, the Catholic Church lost its power and influence. The Civil Constitution of the Clergy, passed in 1790, put the Catholic Church under state control. While the clergy was persecuted by the commune of Paris and by some of the representatives on mission, new religions and philosophies were allowed to compete with Catholicism.
After the Bourbon Restoration and the coming to power of the Ultra-royalists in the Chambre introuvable, Catholic Church again became the state religion of France. Under Villèle's ultra-royalist government, the Chamber voted in the extreme 1830 Anti-Sacrilege Act.
A 1905 law instituted the separation of Church and State and prohibited the government from recognising, salarying, or subsidising any religion. However the Briand-Ceretti Agreement subsequently restored for a while a formal role for the state in the appointment of Catholic bishops (though evidence for its exercise is not easily obtained). In the preceding situation, established 1801-1808 by the Concordat, the State supported the Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church, the Calvinist Church, and the Jewish religion, and provided for public religious education in those established religions.
For historical reasons, this situation is still current in Alsace-Moselle, which was a German region in 1905 and maintains a local law known as the Concordat: the national government salaries clergy of the Catholic diocese of Metz and of Strasbourg, of the Lutheran Protestant Church of Augsburg Confession of Alsace and Lorraine, of the Protestant Reformed Church of Alsace and Lorraine, and of the three regional Israelite consistories as state civil servants, and provides for non-compulsory religious education in those religions in public schools and universities. For similar historical reasons, Catholic priests in French Guiana are civil servants of the local government.
Religious buildings built prior to 1905 at taxpayers' expense are retained by the local or national government, and may be used at no expense by religious organizations. As a consequence, most Catholic churches, Protestant temples, and Jewish synagogues are owned by the government. The government, since 1905, has been prohibited from funding any post-1905 religious edifice, and thus religions must build and support all newer religious buildings at their own expense. Some local governments de facto subsidize prayer rooms as part of greater "cultural associations".
An ongoing topic of controversy is whether the separation of Church and State should be weakened so that the government would be able to subsidize Muslim prayer rooms and the formation of imams. Advocates of such measures, such as Nicolas Sarkozy at times, declare that they would encourage the Muslim population to better integrate into the fabric of French society. Opponents contend that the state should not fund religions. Furthermore, the state ban on wearing conspicuous religious symbols, such as the Islamic female headscarf, in public schools has alienated some French Muslims, provoked minor street protests and drawn some international criticism.
Religious organizations are not required to register, but may if they wish to apply for tax-exempt status or to gain official recognition. The 1901 and 1905 laws define two categories under which religious groups may register: "associations cultuelles" (associations of worship, which are exempt from certain taxes) and "associations culturelles" (cultural associations, which are not exempt from these taxes).
Associations in these two categories are subject to certain management and financial disclosure requirements. An association of worship may organize only religious activities, loosely defined as liturgical services and practices, but no social or diaconal ones. A cultural association may engage in social as well as in profit-making activity. Although a cultural association is not exempt from taxes, it may receive government subsidies for its cultural and educational operations, such as schools. Religious groups normally register entities under both of these categories; churches run strictly religious activities through associations of worship and operate schools and social activities under cultural associations.
In accordance with the provisions of Title IV, Art. 19 of the Law of 9 December 1905, these associations of worship must be exclusively for the purpose of religious ministries, i.e.: the performance of religious ceremonies and services, the acquisition and maintenance of buildings of worship, the wages and the theological education of their ministers of religion.
Under the 1905 statute, religious groups must apply with the local prefecture to be recognized as an association of worship and receive tax-exempt status. The prefecture reviews the submitted documentation regarding the association's purpose for existence. To qualify, the group's purpose must be solely the practice of some form of religious ministries.
While according to the 1905 law associations of worship are not taxed on the donations that they receive, the prefecture may decide to review a group's status if the association receives a large donation or legacy that comes to the attention of the tax authorities. If the prefecture determines that the association is not in fact in conformity with the 1905 law, its status may be changed, and it may be required to pay taxes at a rate of 70 percent on the present and past donations that fall within a legal category close to that of inheritance.
As of the 2000s Buddhism in France was estimated to have between 1 million (Ministry of the Interior) strict adherents and 5 million people influenced by Buddhist doctrines (survey published on the journal Psychologies, 64), very large numbers for a Western country. According to scholar Dennis Gira, who was the director of the Institute of Science and Theology of Religions of Paris, Buddhism in France has a missionary nature and is undergoing a process of "inculturation" that may represent a new turning of the "Wheel of the Dharma", similar to those that it underwent in China and Japan, from which a new incarnation of the doctrine -- a "French Buddhism" -- will possibly arise.
Christianity is the religion of 51.1% of the population of France as of 2016.
A consistent minority of French people, or 4%, declared theirselves as Protestants in 2011.
As of a 2016 survey, 6.6% of the respondents had at least one muslim parent and 5.6% of the respondents declared they were Muslims.
According to the same survey, of the Muslim population of France:
France created in 1995 the first French parliamentary commission on cult activities which led to a report registering a number of religious groups considered as socially disruptive and/or dangerous.
According to French sociologist Régis Dericquebourg, in 2003 the main small religious minorities were the Jehovah's Witnesses (130,000, though the European Court on Human Rights reckoned the number as 249,918 "regular and occasional" Jehovah's Witnesses),Adventists, Evangelicals (Assemblies of God, Christian Open Door...), Mormons (31,000), Scientologists (4,000), and Soka Gakkai. According to the 2005 Association of Religion Data Archives data there are close to 4,400 Bahá'ís in France and the French government is among those who have been alarmed at the treatment of Bahá'ís in modern Iran.
Many groups have around 1,000 members (including Antoinism, Christian Science, Invitation to Life, Raelians, Mandarom, Hare Krishna) and Unification Church has 400. There are no longer members of the Family (formerly Children of God). According to the 2007 edition of the Quid, other notable religious minorities include New Apostolic Church (20,000), Universal White Brotherhood (20,000), Sukyo Mahikari (15,000-20,000), New Acropolis (10,000), Universal Alliance (1,000), and Grail Movement (950).
|Source (year)||Christianity||No religion||Islam||Judaism||Other|
|INED (2008-2009)ages 18-50||45.5%||45%||8%||0.5%||1%|
|Pew Research Center (2010)||63%||28%||7.5%||0.5%||1%|
|Eurobarometer (2012)||58%||37%||3%||0.5%||2% |
|Ipsos Global Trends (2016)ages 16-64||45%||49%||2%||0%||4%|
|Institut Montaigne, IFOP (2016)||51.1%||39.6%||5.6%||0.8%||2.4%|
|Pew Research Center (2017)||63%||28%||-||-||9%|
Due to a law dating from 1872, the French Republic prohibits including in a census the citizens' race or beliefs. However, the law does not include surveys and polls which are free to ask those questions if they wish.
Religious distribution of the immigrant population in France in 2010:
|Religion||Population||% of immigrant
|Total number of migrants||6,680,000||100|
According to the French Institute of Public Opinion (IFOP) 2009 study, based on self declaration:
|IFOP||Catholics||Regularly and occasionally churchgoers||Go to church at least every week|
|In percentage of total French population||64.4%||15.2%||4.5%|
|In million people||41.6||9.78||2.9|
In 1952, 27% of the French population were weekly Catholic churchgoers; in 2006 less than 5%.
43% of practicing Catholics are 65 years or older, compared to 21% of the French population and 21% of non-practicing Catholics.
Approximately 3.8% (or about 179.000 people) of the surveyed of at least one Muslim parent declared theirselves as "Christian".
In Paris and the surrounding Île-de-France region where French Muslims tend to be more educated and religious, the vast majority rejects violence and say they are loyal to France according to studies by Euro-Islam, a comparative research network on Islam and Muslims in the West sponsored by GSRL Paris/CNRS France and Harvard University.
The financing of mosque construction was a problematic subject for a long time; French authorities were concerned that foreign capital could be used to acquire influence in France and so in the late 80s decided to simulate the emergence of a "French Islam". The 1905 law forbids funding of religious groups by the state. According to Salah Bariki, Advisor to the Mayor of Marseille in 2001: "At the Koran training institute in Nièvre 3% of the books are written in French and everything has been paid for from abroad". She supported the public participation in financing an Islamic cultural centre in Marseille to encourage Muslims to develop and use French learning materials, as an obstacle to foreign indoctrination. Also "secular Muslims" and "actors of civil society" should be represented, not just religious officials.
Local authorities have financed the construction of mosques, sometimes without minarets and calling them Islamic "cultural centres" or municipal halls rented to "civil associations". In one case, due to FN, NRM, and MPF protests and tribunal decision, the rent for a 8,000 m2 (86,111 sq ft) terrain to be used for the construction of the Mosque of Marseilles was increased from EUR300/year to EUR24,000/year and the period reduced from 99 to 50 years.
After the shooting at the Charlie Hebdo satirical newspaper by Al-Qaeda's followers, 2 million people in Paris including President Hollande and more than 40 world leaders led a rally of national unity.
One teacher in Clichy-sous-Bois, a suburb with many immigrants, reported that three quarters of the students had refused to observe the minute of silence in memory of the victims of Charlie Hebdo shooting.
There have been about 200 incidents in schools after the attack, some of them "glorifying terrorism". In Bobigny, a suburb of Paris, a couple of students grunted "Allahu Akbar" during the minute of silence - the words that were shouted by the terrorists during the attack.
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