Inanna Hamati-Ataya

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Laïcité refers to the separation between the religious and political spheres. It is so intimately tied to the political history of France that the English term secularism does not fully convey its meaning. Indeed, laïcité results from a long, irregular process of secularization of the French political system that starts with the birth of the Republic (1789) as the expression of the sovereign “will” of the people, and the guarantor of its “general interest.” The republican ideal is at the origin of French laïcité, a form of secularism that denies religion any status in public affairs, and imposes the neutrality of the state toward religious institutions, doctrines, and practices, which guarantees all citizens’ freedom of conscience. The word laïcité (from the Latin laicus and the Greek laos, meaning the layman) itself officially appears in the 1870 s under the Third Republic, which launched the two important processes leading to the laïcisation of France: the secularization of the public school, and the separation between the church and the state.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Encyclopedia of Political Thought
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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