2 February 2024

The Council of Elders of Secularism, created in 2018 within national education by the then Minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, must see its composition evolve, by expanding to new personalities, appointed by the current Minister of national education, Pap Ndiaye. Five new members (in addition to the current total of fifteen members) are planned for this council, made up of experts and intellectuals specializing in secularism issues: they are, according to our information, the jurist Gwenaële Calvès, professor of public law at the University of Cergy-Pontoise, Christine Darnault, associate professor of letters and academy inspector, deputy chief of staff to the rector of Créteil, Jacques Fredj, director of the Shoah Memorial, jurist Thomas Hochmann, professor of public law at the University of Paris-Nanterre, and finally sociologist and political scientist Alain Policar, researcher associated with Cevipof.

The minister, who brought together these new recruits to the ministry on April 6, must solemnly proceed, on April 14, to “installation” of this advice. It is rather a reinstallation, since, in its first version, it had been installed on January 8, 2018 by his predecessor, wishing to make the defense of secularism a strong axis of his policy. Jean-Michel Blanquer wanted this council, according to the mission letter sent on January 17, 2018 to its president, the sociologist Dominique Schnapper, to be able to “provide answers to heads of establishments, teachers and educational teams responsible for transmitting the values ​​of the Republic and bringing the principle of secularism to life in schools and educational establishments”.

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Personalities attached to the 2004 law

The arrival on the board of political scientist Alain Policar is that of a declared adversary of a “repressive secularism” Or ” of fight “, in his terms, of which the policy followed by Jean-Michel Blanquer was for him an illustration. Declaring to have “the fear of the stigmatization of Muslims”he is not, however, among those who call for the repeal of the 2004 law prohibiting conspicuous religious symbols in schools, even if he underlines its limits. “By claiming to fight obscurantism, we are making secularism a weapon against religion”he explained in September 2019 in a forum at the World on the occasion of the controversy over the burkini.

More consensual, the four other incoming personalities are also attached to the 2004 law. Gwenaële Calvès is a renowned specialist in secularism, author of numerous works including Disputed territories of secularism (Presses Universitaires de France, 2018), in which she analyzed “44 (more or less) tricky questions”, referring to concrete cases where the application of the legal principles in the matter could give rise to conflicts of interpretation. She had, in an interview with Worldcriticized a position taken by Jean-Michel Blanquer: he had stated, on October 13, 2019 on BFM-TV, that “The veil is simply not desirable in our society”. The minister, she believed, “probably spoke in a personal capacity, and not as a minister of a secular Republic”.

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