Christian leaders in France have raised concerns that a new bill intended to combat Islamic extremism may be used to restrict basic religious liberties for Christians.
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said the aim of the law is to stop “an Islamist hostile takeover targeting Muslims” that “like gangrene [is] infecting our national unity.”
Although the bill seeks to prevent the emergence of a wholly-separate Muslim community by promoting French values of secularism, Christians are concerned the bill’s provisions could be used to undermine the liberties of churches and individual Christians.
According to the Barnabas Fund, these include “a requirement for churches to apply to be re-registered every five years, possible monitoring of sermons as part of a crackdown on ‘hate speech’ with authorities allowed to close any place of worship for up to two months, and a bar on homeschooling for religious reasons.”
French President Emmanuel Macron announced last year his intention to outlaw home-schooling in 2021 for all children unless they have a medical exemption that forces them to stay away from schools.
According to a report from LifeSite News, the President said the government would also set up control of self-funded, private and independent schools, through inspections of curricula and by strong enforcement of a new law that requires private schools to teach a “common core” defined by the government.
Macron’s intent is to control the textbooks and thereby control the state. And according to the President, that includes protecting children, not just from Islam, but essentially from all religion.
“School is the republican melting pot,” he said. “It’s what makes it possible for us to protect our children in a complete way from any religious sign, from religion.”
Recent comments from Darmanin raised further fears that the new legislation would be used against Christians.
“Evangelicals are a very important problem,” Darmanin said. “Obviously not [a problem] of the same nature than the Islamism that makes terrorists attacks and deaths.”
However, in another interview, the Minister essentially equated the two, saying, “We cannot discuss with people who refuse to write on paper that the law of the Republic is superior to the law of God.”
Romain Choisnet, Communication Director of the National Council of Evangelicals in France said:
“France will win nothing in its fight against Islamic separatism by equating Christianity and Islamism.
“The first has shaped this nation that the Republic has inherited. The second wants to replace it,” he added.
The bill was passed by 347 votes to 151 in the French National Assembly (the lower house of the French Parliament) on 16 February and is due to be voted on by the Senate on 30 March.