Laïcité is that seminal doctrine of French politics where religion is barred from having any influence on political matters. If matters of faith influence one’s perspective on issues of public policy it cannot be spoken. This does not mean though, that religion does not influence how people are voting in the current French Presidential elections nor does it mean that the candidates will not appeal to peoples religious sensibilities (cloaked in strictly secular terminology).
The first round of voting took place last Sunday. The two frontrunners, Socialist Party candidate Francois Hollande and the incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy moved on to the second round run-off election which will take place May 6th.
The Economy and related Euro crisis in Greece and Spain has dominated much of the political discourse, however, the conflict in Israel and euthanasia have also bubbled to the surface in the last several months.
Since the massacre in Toulouse a month ago, both Hollande and Sarkozy have taken a great deal of time proving their support for the Jews. But the support for the Jews in France does not translate into support for the Jews in Israel, especially with the parties to the Left of Hollande’s Socialists. Hollande himself has stated publicly, “I will support the international recognition of the state of Palestine.” It is unclear whether that means before or after a peace deal is signed by both Israel and the Palestinians. Unfortunately, the need for support from Hollande’s Left will likely mean he will be forced to take a more anti-Israel tack.
Peter Martino from the Gatestone Institute has noted that Left Front candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon has “declared that East Jerusalem should be the Palestinian capital.” According to a report in the Jerusalem Post, “A phrase comparing the Palestinians territories, particularly Gaza, to “open air concentration camps” uttered on television by Nathalie Arhaud, candidate for La Lutte Ouvrière (a movement influenced by the Third (Communist) International) was identified by [Green Party Candidate] Joly as reflecting the typical “signature” of the Left.”
This type of rhetoric will likely benefit Sarkozy amongst the very tiny Jewish vote. In the 2007 Presidential elections, Sarkozy received 45% of the vote and this was largely attributed to his pro-Israel stance. Polls predicting the Jewish support for this years elections are unavailable, but considering the options, Sarkozy will likely enjoy an even greater margin this year.
Lifesite News recently reported that Hollande is moving away from his pro-euthanasia platform. The Socialist Party platform positions states,
all adults in the advanced or terminal phase of an incurable illness, provoking unbearable physical or psychic suffering, and that can not be alleviated, can request, within precise and strict conditions, to receive medical assistance to end their life with dignity.
The cause of his wavering support for euthanasia is the ongoing attacks from Sarkozy, who has come out in strong support of the current law. Sarkozy stated unequivocally in Le Figaro, “Legalized euthanasia risks leading us to dangerous extremes and would be against our conception of the dignity of human beings.”
Sarkozy has been polling very strongly amongst practicing Catholics. In an interview with the Vatican Insider, Professor Jean Dominique Durand noted,
According to surveys, practicing Catholics (that is, the ones who go to Mass on Sunday) represent more or less 14% of the population. Nicolas Sarkozy would win 45% of the constituents in this group, and 34% of the non-practicing Catholics. Instead, François Hollande would win only 16% of the votes among practicing Catholics, and 24% of the non-practicing. This trend would be confirmed in a second round of voting, with 70% of the practicing and 55% of non-practicing Catholics voting for Sarkozy.
The Protestants in France have been moving towards the right in recent elections cycles. The survey taken by Réforme, is showing 53.5% of Protestants plan to vote for Sarkozy, while 46.5% plan to vote for Hollande. The strong support amongst Protestants for the right-leaning National Front is largely seen by pundits as a reaction to the pass given to Islamists in France. However, given the rise of Evangelicalism among Protestants, one can expect to see social issues like euthanasia taking a more decisive role in voter attitudes towards parties and candidates alike.
The Future of Laïcité
France, like other nations of Northern and Western Europe are beginning to see a revival of faith and religious affiliation. This translates simply as, France is becoming more religious. The cause of this trend is two-fold. First, the immigrant populations in France are much more religious. This is not limited to the Muslim immigrant from North Africa, but also includes Pentecostals from West Africa. Both of these groups tend to be evangelistic too. The second reason for the statistical rise in religious affiliation is that secular people typically do not have children. We are just now beginning to see the demographic results of decisions made decades ago concerning childbirth and other related social values.
Secular France is in decline and while candidates argue about tax rates and Euro policy, there is a growing number of French equally concerned about the moral future of France. Laïcité will be around for a while, but it is impossible to see how the capstone of secular political values will survive without secularist to support it. It’s days are numbered, and I for one, consider that a good thing.