The Law concerning the Separation of the Churches and the State
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The representative Aristide Briand led the hearing on the draft of the law of separation of the Churches and the State which was passed on December 9, 1905. It put an end to the Napoleonean Concordat of 1801 which governed the relationship between the French government and the Churches.
This law posed the principle of the freedom of conscience of citizens guaranteed by the State.
Article 1 - The Republic ensures freedom of conscience. It guarantees the free exercise of religion subject to the sole restrictions enacted hereafter in the interest of public order. Article 2 - The Republic does not recognize, remunerate or subsidize any religion. In consequence, starting on the 1st of January which follows the publication of this Law, all expenses concerning the practice of religions shall be abolished from the budgets of the State, departments and town councils.
However, expenses concerning the services of the chaplain and destined to ensure the free practice of religions in public establishments such as high schools, primary and secondary schools, hospices, asylums and prisons, may be included in these budgets. The publicly formed or financed establishments of religion are abolished, subject to the conditions stipulated in Article 3.
Article 3 - Those establishments, the suppression of which is ordered by article 2, will continue to function, according to the regulations that are currently enforced, until the attribution of their properties to the associations provided by Title IV and at the utmost until the expiration of the thereafter delay.
When the current law is promulgated, officers of the State property administration will proceed to the descriptive and estimated inventory :
1/ Of the furniture and estate properties of the aforesaid establishments
2/ Of the State, department and town council properties of which they have the use This two-folded inventory will be made contradictorily with legalrepresentatives of ecclesiastical establishments or with those duly summoned by a notification written in a formal way. The officers in charge of the inventory will have the right to check any title or documents necessary for their duty.
Article 4 - Within one year since the promulgation of this law, the furniture and estate properties of the menses, manufactures, Presbyterian councils, Consistories and any other public establishments of worship, as well as all the charges and obligations that are mortgaged to them longside with their special affectation, will be transferred by the legal representatives of those establishments to the associations, which in conformity with the regulations of the general organization of the worship which they intend to assure, will be legally formed according to the provisions of article 19, for the exercise of this worship in the previous constituencies of the aforesaid establishments.
[…] Article 12 - The buildings which were placed at the disposal of the nation and which, under the terms of the law of the 18 Germinal year X, are used for the public exercise of the worships or housing of their ministers (cathedrals, churches, vaults, synagogues, archbishop’s palaces, bishops’ houses, presbyteries, seminars), as well as their real estates, and the items of furniture which furnished them at the time when the aforementioned buildings were given to the worships, are and remain public property of the State, department, town-councils. For these buildings, as for those posterior to the law of the 18 Germinal year X, whose State, departments and communes would be owners, including Colleges of Protestant theology, it shall be proceeded in accordance with the provisions of the following articles.
Article 28 - It is forbidden, in the future, to erect or to put up any religious sign or symbol on public buildings or in whatever public place, except on buildings used as places of worship, on burial grounds in cemeteries, on funeral monuments, museums or exhibition halls.