Another Trans-Atlantic Divide? Church-State Relations in Europe and the United States
Europeans and Americans approach the relationship between church and state differently. European churches, for instance, often receive official sanction and substantial financial support from the government. In the United States, on the other hand, the government recognizes no church, and whatever aid it provides is usually indirect and substantially more limited. Even ideas of religious liberty differ, with European notions of religious freedom focused more on the rights of communities than on those of individuals.
The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life invited a distinguished panel of experts from both sides of the Atlantic to discuss the key differences between the U.S. and various European church-state models, including the distinctive virtues and vices of each system. The panel also explored how well each model accommodates newcomers, particularly Muslims, a community that is growing rapidly in both Europe and the United States.
Sam Cherribi, Professor of Sociology, Emory University
Bill Galston, Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution
Chris Soper, Director, Center for Faith and Learning, Pepperdine University
Justin Vaisse, Adjunct Professor, Sciences Po Paris
Johan Van der Vyver, Professor of International Law and Human Rights, Emory University School of Law
David Masci, Senior Research Fellow, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
DAVID MASCI: Good afternoon, and on behalf of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, I’d like to welcome you all to today’s discussion on church-state issues in Europe and the United States. My name is David Masci and I’m a senior fellow at the Pew Forum, which is a part of the Pew Research Center. The Forum’s mission is to provide timely information on important issues at the intersection of religion and public affairs, very much like this one. We’re nonpartisan, which means that we do not take positions on any issues, including the ones we’re going to be discussing today.
We’ve entitled this event “Another Transatlantic Divide,” which in some ways is an accurate label. There are real differences in the way that Europeans and Americans view the proper relationship between government on one hand and religious people and institutions on the other. Of course, there are also differences within Europe itself. But there are enough European commonalities to allow us, in a general sense, to compare and differentiate Europe from the situation here in the United States. So that’s what we’re going to try to do today.
For instance, churches in many European countries receive official sanction and financial support from the state, while American federal and state governments are constitutionally barred from recognizing any church and are not allowed to provide any assistance; they only provide indirect and limited assistance. Even ideas of religious liberty differ. While people on both sides of the Atlantic generally agree on the need for religious freedom, they tend to define it differently. While Europeans, for instance, recognize freedom of conscience, they also tend to focus on the rights of communities much more than their individual-minded American counterparts. So these are some of the examples of this transatlantic divide that we’re talking about.
On the other hand, when we mention the term transatlantic divide, it’s a little bit misleading. The term, which has become a cliché really of late, reflects a broadly held view that politically and culturally Europe and the United States have been drifting apart in recent decades. Their outlooks have been changing, but the different views on church-state relations stem from hundreds of years of history on both sides of the Atlantic, not just recent social and cultural trends.
European governments have generally tied religion more closely to the state, viewing religious expression as a matter of national identity. This makes sense given the relative ethnic and religious homogeneity of many European states. Likewise, Americans, who have been a diverse lot from almost the start of European settlement 400 years ago, have tended to view faith more as a private matter.
There are other ways to parse out these differences between the two as well. I’ll just mention two, and I’m sure our speakers will go into some of them. Today we’d like to examine how European and American approaches stack up against each other, especially now with the kind of rapid demographic and social changes occurring on both sides of the Atlantic. Given these demographic and other changes, one question immediately comes to mind, and that is: Is one system better than the other at accommodating and integrating religious minorities, specifically newcomers? This is particularly important given the growth of Islam in many parts of Europe and to a lesser degree in the United States. Take, for instance, the head scarf controversy. It would be very hard to imagine Americans taking the kind of action that France did in 2004 when it banned Muslim head scarves as well as the wearing of yarmulkes and crosses in public schools. Such an action would be constitutionally impermissible here, but it also would have violated core American notions of religious toleration. And yet, would an American solution to the head scarf issue have been the right one for France?
To help us examine these and many other questions, we’ve assembled an excellent panel of experts today, both from Europe and the United States. We’ve provided you with biographies of all the speakers, but let me briefly identify each. First up today will be Johan Van der Vyver, who teaches international law and human rights at Emory Law School. Before that, Johan taught law at the University of Witwatersrand in his native South Africa. Next up will be Sam Cherribi, a senior lecturer in sociology also at Emory University. Before coming to the United States a number of years ago, Sam served eight years as a member of Parliament in Holland. Next we’ll be hearing from Bill Galston, who is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. In addition to teaching for more than a decade at the University of Maryland, Bill also served a stint during the 1990s as deputy assistant for domestic policy for President Bill Clinton.
Following Professor Galston will be Justin Vaisse. Justin, I hope I got that right. My French teachers would probably not be very happy with my level of French pronunciation these days, but anyway. Justin is an adjunct professor at Sciences Po in Paris and an affiliated scholar at the Brookings Institution, and he’s just told me that he’ll be coming on board the Brookings Institution for a three-year stint beginning in September of this year. He’s also co-authored a new book, Integrating Islam: Political and Religious Challenges in Contemporary France, so it will be very interesting to hear what he has to say about that. Finally, we’ll be hearing from Chris Soper, who was a professor of political science at Pepperdine University. Chris also directs the Center for Faith and Learning at Pepperdine. Now, without further ado, let me hand things over to Professor Van der Vyver.
JOHAN VAN DER VYVER: Thank you for inviting me. The multiple arrangements of church-state relations and constitutions of the world can, in broad outline, be classified into several categories. The first is the separation of church and state, which is a salient component of First Amendment jurisprudence in the United States but is also proclaimed, as far as European countries are concerned, in the constitutions of Poland, Portugal and Russia. In the same spirit, some countries testify in their constitutions to being secular states, including in the European context Ireland, Russia and Turkey. And yet another group, including Albania, Ireland, Slovakia and Spain, proclaim their neutrality with respect to religion.
The second category, confined to Islamic states, proclaim the identity of law and religion. It is in a sense slightly more complicated than that because Islam is not perceived by its followers as a church; it is a way of life. And religion and law are not distinct modalities of reality; religion is law and law is religion.
The third basic model of church-state relations derives from the scholastic doctrine of subsidiarity, proclaiming the church to be the societas perfecta in the supernatural realm of grace, while the state is the perfect community structure in the realm of nature. A particular offshoot of perceiving the state to be a supreme authority within the realm of nature was the singling out of a particular denomination as the established church. In conformity with the doctrine of subsidiarity, the established church is subordinate to but endowed with all kinds of privileges by the state – the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Norway, Finland, Iceland, and not so long ago also in Denmark and Sweden; the Anglican Church in England; and the Presbyterian Church in Scotland. The Roman Catholic Church is still an established church or is afforded special constitutional recognition in Liechtenstein, Malta and Monaco. The Eastern Orthodox Church of Christ is singled out as the prevailing religion in Greece.
Finally, mention can be made of the new Calvinistic doctrine of sphere sovereignty, which is sensitive to the interaction between church and state, and the symbiosis of religion and law, but recognizes the unique attributes and equal standing of each within its own internal sphere of competencies. Somewhat akin to the notion of sphere sovereignty, Romania permits the organization of religious sects in accordance with their own statutes but under the conditions of the law. Italy affords independence and sovereignty, each within its own ambit, to the state and the Roman Catholic Church only. Ireland more generously proclaims the right of every religious denomination to manage its own affairs.
Just a few words about the separation of church and state. It should be evident to everyone that interpretations of the [First Amendment’s] Establishment Clause over the years went well beyond the drafter’s original intent. Prohibiting a daily period of silence in public schools for purposes of meditation or voluntary prayers, refusing to pay salaries to public school employees who taught at parochial schools, or declining to adjudicate church-related disputes that require evidence on doctrinal issues is a far cry from the ban of an established church.
Secondly, even the most elementary analysis of First Amendment jurisprudence will reveal the many inconsistencies between the free exercise and establishment decisions, and indeed, inconsistencies within the separate parameters of the free exercise and establishment decisions respectively. It also strikes one that almost every new appointee to the U.S. Supreme Court uses the first available opportunity to add a new dimension to the three-pronged test laid down [in 1971] in Lemon v. Kurtzman to identify excessive entanglement of the state with religion and to retain the measure of neutrality in matters of religion required if the Jeffersonian wall of separation between church and state is to be kept high and impregnable.
I often wondered why all this confusion and why this unending bickering to find solid ground for free exercise in establishment interpretations. Do not the principle of legality and the concomitant demands of legal certainty require that fundamental concepts of constitutional propriety become relatively fixed and comprehensible? The very core of constitutionalism and the rule of law are, after all, at stake here. At least part of the problem is that the notion of separation is based on a false premise, the perception that church and state and religion and law can be separated in watertight compartments. Even justices of the U.S. Supreme Court have said so. Chief Justice Warren Burger, on one occasion, pointed out that – and I quote – the metaphor of a wall between church and state is not a wholly accurate description of the practical aspects of this relationship that in fact exists between church and state.
As for Western Europe, there is no uniformity as far as the regulation of church-state relations is concerned. When considering the state of religious freedom in Europe, one might consider the listing of so-called dangerous sects in countries such as Austria, Belgium and France, or discrimination against members of the Church of Scientology in Germany, or the prohibition of the wearing of Muslim head scarves in schools and public places in France and Turkey, and much more.
I’ve already mentioned establishment of a preferred religion in countries such as England, Norway, Finland and Iceland. In Liechtenstein, the protection of religion is stipulated in the constitutions to be the function of the state, and the property rights of religious institutions are specially regulated as a constitutional matter. Greece has been on the red carpet before the European Court of Human Rights for sanctioning rigid and, indeed, prohibitive conditions to restrict the activities of faith communities outside the Greek Orthodox Church, and for restrictions placed on evangelical activities of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and more recently of the Pentecostal Church.
In terms of the Austrian law concerning the legal personality of registered religious communities enacted on Dec. 10, 1997, stringent requirements apply to a religious institution if it is to enjoy the status of a state-recognized religion. It must, for example, have existed in Austria for a period of at least 20 years and must have a following of at least 16,000 adherents, which equals 2 percent of the total Austrian population. The legislation paved the way for reducing state-recognized religions from 12 to probably no more than four. Religions not recognized by the government are denied certain benefits, including the right to levy taxes, to conduct religious classes in public schools, to receive state subsidies for their private schools, and to broadcast radio services.
Almost every European country affords a privileged status to one or another religion or religious institution. Perhaps the Netherlands is an exception. And I know Spain is currently trying hard to get there. Proclaiming the separation of church and state or neutrality of the state in matters of religion is in itself simply not enough to gainsay evidence deriving from legislation or practices to the contrary, nor is it an answer to such favoritism to claim a policy of religious tolerance with respect to the other. The concept of toleration carries within it a condescending connotation.
The United States, to the contrary, is not as markedly partisan in matters of religion as its European counterparts, though one must admit that many institutions in the United States do lean toward a preference for Christian values and practices. As to the guarantee of freedom of religion, practices in the United States are also not beyond reproach. In 1998, the United Nations special rapporteur on religious freedom, Professor Abdelfattah Amor of Tunisia, conducted an informal investigation in the United States into compliance in this country with the subject matter of his brief. Although the state of religious freedom in the United States is by and large satisfactory, the special rapporteur found causes for concern in this regard with respect to members of the Arab community being singled out for special scrutiny at airports – and this was before Sept. 11 – and insensitivity of American authorities to the spiritual values of Native Americans.
Countries of the world are still grappling to find an ideal and practical norm to accommodate ecclesiastical varieties and the widest possible spectrum of religious beliefs and practices. It seems to me that neither the United States nor Europe has thus far come up with a feasible alternative to their traditional arrangements. Perhaps the direction to explore might be gleaned from one of the world’s newest democracies, the Republic of South Africa. The political transformation of that country during the early 1990s included abandoning the earlier bias of the legal and political structures in favor of a certain brand of Protestant Christianity.
The new South Africa is indeed not a secular state, but can perhaps best be defined as a religiously neutral state. The constitution is based on a profound understanding of the extreme values of religion beyond the confines of a church building and the inner chamber of a person’s spiritual commitment. South Africa, therefore, does not ban but indeed encourages religious observances in public schools and religious services on state-controlled radio and television, but subject to one overriding condition. Based on the egalitarian foundation of the constitutional ethos, all religions must be granted a fair share in providing or participating in those observances and broadcasts. Thank you.
SAM CHERRIBI: Thank you very much. I want to tell you something about my own background, which I think has given me special insights into different cultures, having been born and raised in Morocco, then moved to the Netherlands, served there as MP [member of Parliament] and then represented the Netherlands in the Council of Europe and the Assembly of the European Union. In 2003 I moved here with my wife and two daughters to teach at Emory, falling back on my Ph.D. in sociology.
I want to make a couple of points from a comparative perspective between the U.S. and the European Union. First, there is no single policy or set of policies in the European Union, and this is evident especially in three main areas – schools, public displays of faith and minorities. Let’s just think about differences by taking a train ride from Amsterdam, the Netherlands through Belgium to France. We’ll take the schools. For example, in the Netherlands you have Islamic schools. In Belgium, there are no Islamic schools, but Islam is taught in regular classes in religious courses in public schools. In France, there are no Islamic schools and there is no teaching of Islam at schools.
Now take public displays of Islam, the veil, for example. In Holland, it is really very interesting to see that in Islamic schools teachers and students are obliged to wear the veil. If they do not wear the veil, they cannot teach or they cannot attend school, which is really very funny. You go to Belgium, it is regulated at the level of the schools. Some schools allow the veil; some don’t. But when you go to France, there is a ban on the veil.
Now, when it comes to minorities, take Holland, for example, and its Islamic organizations. The Netherlands as early as 1986 created an Islamic council, and it became two Islamic councils representing Islamic minorities. In 2002, it became problematic because of the rise of the far right. They stopped the funding of the Islamic council, and it became problematic. Belgium was the first country in Europe to organize a vote asking the Islamic community to support an Islamic council to have real representation in Belgium. But most secular Muslims and modern Muslims didn’t vote. It became a council dominated by fundamentalists.
France, which was very ambiguous for a long time about this council, because France didn’t even ratify the charter of minorities of the Council of Europe, would not recognize that there are linguistic minorities in France, never wanted to have a council. Then, at a given moment, they said maybe our model doesn’t work that much, let’s create a council. They created an Islamic council almost the same as in Belgium. What do you have in that council – also a disproportionate representation of fundamentalists. Well, France just recently created that council.
What I want to say is that by creating those kind of structures, you give the mosque disproportionate powers. And that’s also the ambiguity of Europe, because there is no unified single policy in this enlarged Europe.
My second point is that moderate Muslims are very important to democracies and to European democracies and to what is happening in Europe – that’s why maybe the U.S. has to think about not making the same mistakes made in Europe. I don’t think that the Jeffersonian wall, as Professor Van der Vyver said, will go down if there are public displays of religion.
I will give an example – when Karen Hughes went on al-Jazeera on a visit to the Arab world and at her right hand was a veiled Muslim woman, she was bragging about it and saying, “Look, in France you are not allowed to have somebody like this lady, who is absolutely a very competent lady, wearing a veil. I just want to say, in America we say, so what?” That’s a really interesting example.
I want to mention something else that would be unheard of at a European university. Late one afternoon in 2003, my first fall at Emory University, I heard a recognizable noise, and I was thinking this is the call to prayer. Am I in Fez? Am I in Casablanca? Am I in Algiers? It brought me back to years ago. I followed the sound to the quad, which is a beautiful quad of the university, to this clock tower, which is a landmark at the university, and I saw indeed a call to prayer of Muslim students. American students were just walking by and watching; it was no problem. It is impossible to have this kind of display at any European university. And the Jeffersonian wall is still there.
The interesting thing about the U.S. is that as Alexis de Tocqueville said, it’s a very religious society, but the federal state will make sure that it will stay intact. And so, I would just give as an example – he is also a colleague of Professor Van der Vyver – my colleague President Jimmy Carter, who is teaching at Emory himself. He is a very devout Christian, but at the same time, he wrote this book about endangered values, saying we have to make sure the secular values are still there. I think the American model is much more accommodating with its history of civil rights than the European one, because there is no European model. Thank you.
BILL GALSTON: Well, I’m here to break the Dutch hegemony that has so far been established. My task is to represent, in 10 minutes, the American way. And so, I will not speak comparatively, although I hope in the question and answer period I will have an opportunity to.
I want to divide my brief remarks into three sections. The first, brief comments on some of the basic legal structure of the American way. Second, what this means for the nature of our public discourse. And third, how the American legal structure interacts with American religion to produce what I regard as a distinctive religious form.
With regard to the first of my self-assigned topics, namely, the basic legal framework, I would make four points. First of all, as has been emphasized repeatedly, there is a formal legal norm of separation built into the federal Constitution. But I want to underscore that it did not necessitate that kind of formal separation at the state level. And indeed, at the time of the ratification of the Constitution, a majority of the signatory states had established churches. The First Amendment was drafted in part to immunize those state establishments against federal action.
There was no legal necessity that the state establishments would disappear. It’s very interesting to speculate about the dynamics – the cultural dynamics as well as others – that led to the gradual disappearance of establishments at the state level. But things might have worked out otherwise, and today we might have a bifurcated system with no federal establishment but a variety of state establishments.
The second point – and Professor Van der Vyver has already gestured in this direction – American churches enjoy a very substantial degree of legal autonomy from state interference. By that, I mean that disputes within churches or within congregations over religious doctrine, even when issues of property are implicated in those disputes, are not typically as a doctrinal matter – as a matter of American jurisprudence – adjudicated by our court system. There were, as some of you may know, some very high-profile controversies in England in the 19th century where the House of Lords got involved in adjudicating cases based on its own decision about where the doctrinal equities lay in these sorts of disputes. That negative example from the UK had an important influence on the development of American jurisprudence in the late 19th century and led to this pretty well established doctrine of legal autonomy.
The third legal principle that structures this discussion is the idea – formal separation notwithstanding – of limited cooperation between church and state. Let me give you three examples of this. First, through the tax code – tax exemption is an implicit and not insignificant state subsidy of religious activities in general. Secondly, through the mechanisms of civil society, President Bush’s faith-based initiative brought into higher political relief that kind of financial relationship between the state, on the one hand, and churches and church-related organizations on the other. But I can assure you that the Bush administration did not invent that relationship. Third, and most recently, the Supreme Court has validated school vouchers, at least in limited circumstances – vouchers where public funds will indirectly flow to not only private educational institutions but parochial, church-related schools as well.
The fourth legal principle is the idea of limited accommodation. What happens when there is a clash between general public purposes, as manifested through state policy, on the one hand, and the beliefs and practices of individual religious organizations or individuals on the other? This is a contested area of American jurisprudence. The two cases that are best known in this regard are the famous Wisconsin v. Yoder [in 1972], where the Amish gained an accommodation – a legal exemption – from otherwise binding public policy that mandated school attendance until the age of 16. On the other side, one has the equally famous – and from my standpoint, notorious – Smith decision in 1990, in which a state-based anti-drug policy was allowed to override the peyote-based religious observances of Native Americans.
Topic two – the nature of the public discourse that flows from this legal relationship; here, three points. First of all, despite the best efforts of academic political philosophers, of whom I am one on alternate Tuesdays, religious themes and premises make a prominent and perennial appearance in American public discourse, and I do not expect that to change any time soon. That is not regarded as illegitimate in principle, although when it cuts in a liberal direction, the conservatives object in principle, and if it cuts in a conservative direction, the liberals object in principle. But the non-principle basis of those two objectives is manifest to anyone who steps back and just listens to both simultaneously.
Second, – our pretense of religious neutrality notwithstanding – there is more than a vestige of what might be called an informal establishment of religion in the United States. Various Christian norms and understandings are still quite pervasive in our society and may be drawn upon even for legal purposes. If you don’t believe me, go back and take a look at the Supreme Court cases in which Mormon polygamy was outlawed. What you’ll see over and over again is an invocation of an essentially Christian understanding of what marriage is as the basis of a legitimate jurisprudential argument. One might well ask how those arguments would run today if the issue of polygamy rears its head again; that’s an interesting question. But I would suggest that wherever one looks, one can see important vestiges of this informal Christian establishment.
Third, as we’ve already heard, the American public square is diverse and expressive, rather than naked or secular. We’ve already heard a vivid example of how this diverse and expressive public square manifests itself on a college campus. But that kind of example could be multiplied many times over. We have many controversies in this country, but the kind of controversy that France had about head scarves is not really part and parcel of our debates because of the basic structure of argumentation and law in the United States.
Category three – there is a kind of symmetry or congruence or fit between the nature of the American legal system, on the one hand, and the structure of American religion on the other. And here, three points.
From the very beginning, American individualism at the level of culture has manifested itself in an affinity for the language of conscience in discussions of religion. This goes back hundreds of years; it comes into very high relief in the famous memorial and remonstrance of James Madison, which is – among other things – an extended meditation on conscience and its rights as the basis of religion.
Reflecting this individualism – and this is my second point – American religion is characterized by many of the features of American society and even the American economy. It is highly competitive, innovative and characterized by a high degree of individual choice. There are probably more new religious denominations invented in an average decade in the United States than in an average millennium on the European continent. I’m not saying that’s a good thing or a bad thing; but it is a fact.
Finally, the 10th and final point that I would make in characterizing what I am calling the American way is the prominence of the Protestant template in determining the structure and function of all religions in the United States. There is this very strong tendency toward congregationalism, lay participation, separationism. If you don’t believe me, just look at the very interesting history of Catholicism in the United States, which – without becoming Protestant – has taken on aspects of Protestantism in its structure and operation. I don’t think it was any accident that it was American Catholicism that produced John Courtney Murray, a man who has – along with the late John Paul II – had such a profound effect on world Catholicism. With that, I will subside. Thank you very much.
JUSTIN VAISSE: Thanks. It should be clear by now that there is not one unified European model. From the situations in which there is an established church, like in Great Britain, where the monarch is still the supreme governor of the Church of England and defender of the faith, to the French case of laïcité, which I will try to explain later on, going through Germany, where there is tax collection for the church of your choice, there is indeed not one single model.
Still, there is no doubt that the comparison between America and Europe is possible. One interesting fact in this regard is the degree of secularism of societies on one side of the Atlantic and the other. I’d like to draw on the Pew Research Center poll of three years ago asking the question whether it’s necessary to believe in God to be moral. In America, the answer was yes, it’s necessary to believe in God to be moral, by 58 percent to 40 percent. In all European countries, at least Germany, Italy, Great Britain and France, as well as Canada, there were minorities who said that it was necessary to believe in God to be moral. The interesting thing is that at one end of the spectrum you had the U.S. – 58 percent said yes – and at the other end of the spectrum you had France, who said by 86 percent that it was not necessary to believe in God to be moral, and only 13 percent said it was. In terms of legality, if you take the EU Treaty, the main Maastricht Treaty, Article 51 devolves to the states this question of regulating the relations between church and state. So that makes clear that it’s a state-by-state – and I would say case-by-case – question.
Rather than trying to do this comparison between Europe as a whole and America, I would like to mention a couple of points on France and the French model versus the U.S. – keeping in mind that only some of the points that I will be making are valid for other European countries and that many of them are valid only for the French case. I’d like to do that, especially because there have been a couple of misrepresentations that I’d like to correct along the way.
I think to understand the French situation I would need to make four very important preliminary remarks. The first one has to do with the way we understand the separation of church and state. Basically, there is a strong separation of church and state here in the U.S. and in France, but in completely opposite terms. In the U.S., you separate church and state because you want to protect churches from the state. In France, by the separation of church and state, we try to protect the state from the church. That comes from history, of course, from the history of the 18th and 19th centuries, where you had the dominant church, the Catholic Church, which was a force that was basically anti-democratic and anti-Republican, in the French sense of the term, and the state had to cut off its ties with this force so as to impose a democracy.
This background is very important to understand all that we are going to talk about now and in the question and answer period. I would not be able to describe it in better terms than Tocqueville did as early as 1835, in Democracy in America, contrasting the European situation – particularly the French situation – with the American one. I am quoting from Chapter 17 of Democracy in America: “The greatest part of British America,” writes Tocqueville, “was peopled by men who, after having shaken off the authority of the Pope, acknowledged no other religious supremacy. They brought with them into the New World a form of Christianity, which I cannot better describe than by styling it a democratic and republican religion. This contributed powerfully to the establishment of a republic and a democracy in public affairs, and from the beginning, politics and religion contracted an alliance, which has never been dissolved.”
So contrasting this situation of British America that Tocqueville describes and now turning to Europe. “I am fully convinced that this extraordinary and incidental cause is the close connection of politics and religion [in Europe]. The unbelievers of Europe attack the Christians as their political opponents rather than as their religious adversaries. They hate the Christian religion as the opinion of the party much more than as an error of belief, and they reject the clergy less because they are the representatives of the Deity than because they are the allies of government.” So I would not comment on this; I think this stands for itself. That was my first preliminary remark.
The second one is that not only the vision of separation of church and state is understood in reverse terms, but also the image of the state itself – the role of the state itself in society – is understood in reverse terms. The state is not seen with suspicion in France like it is in the U.S. In France, the state is seen more or less as a protector, a guarantor of your freedom and your rights. For example, it’s expected to protect you from religious cults. Religion, on the contrary, is seen with suspicion – that’s my third point – the image of religion is not good. That comes also from history, from the history of the War of Religion of the 16th and 17th centuries and for, of course, the history of the 18th and 19th centuries, which I mentioned earlier.
The fourth and last point has to do with the current situation of Islam in Europe and Islam in France in particular. We have very, very different situations in France and the U.S., and a very good quote for this is page three of this morning’s released poll by the Pew Research Center on Muslim Americans. On page three, you have an explanation for why we cannot see things exactly in the same light. In the U.S., Muslims basically come from the brain drain from a very high level of immigration. They are richer and better educated than the rest of the population. They are above average. It’s the reverse in France and in most of Europe. And in the U.S., you don’t have any special, geographic concentration of Muslims like there is in France.
So this said, I’d like to turn to the question of laïcité and what it means exactly. Basically, you can see it as a triangle. The first corner of the triangle is the freedom of conscience, religion and worship – what we call la liberté du culte. That’s the first part of it. The second corner of this triangle is the strict equality between religions and philosophies, including atheism, and the strict neutrality of the state vis-à-vis all these religions and philosophies. And the third, and of course, most polemic part of laïcité – but which laïcité should not be reduced to – is the vigilance and wariness toward undue religious influence on the state – that is the history part that I mentioned earlier – and to some extent, in civil society. And this gets us to the question of head scarves in public school. It is in this third corner that you could find, in Newt Gingrich terms, a culture of radical secularism in France. That’s probably the place where it would be the most evident.
So you can now see where there is a structural complexity in understanding the separation of church and state in France when seen with American glasses, with American eyes. Two very brief examples – the first one is the fight against religious cults. The same day – it’s a funny coincidence – the same day that the U.S. Congress voted the International Religious Freedom Act and instituted the ambassador for religious freedoms, the French National Assembly voted a law basically monitoring and trying to guard against dangerous religious cults. Another example is the head scarf ban. That’s where I am getting to the misrepresentations.
The head scarf ban is only valid in public schools and in no other places. You can go to a city hall. You can go to a consulate or an embassy. You can go to the National Assembly, etc., with a head scarf on; that’s perfectly fine. But school is different. School is different because that’s really the place where the fight against the Catholic Church in the 19th century was waged, and that’s why laïcité concentrates on this battlefield. That’s the only place where it’s banned. And by the way, there are already three Islamic schools in France. There are many others that are sort of growing. This has taken time. But these schools are in the process of receiving the same kind of contract with the state that Catholic schools and Jewish schools have, a sort of understanding by which the state pays for the salary of teachers in exchange for following the regular curriculum and then doing some additional activities – and of course, with the obligation of welcoming children of all religions.
Another misrepresentation is about the CFCM, the French Council for the Muslim Religion, which was instituted five years ago in 2002, which is different from the Belgian one. It basically represents believers and practitioners. It is based on the votes by practitioners, based on the number of square meters of all mosques. So the more square meters you have, the more votes you get to elect this council, which is a representative council. So it doesn’t represent Muslims in general; it only represents believers and practitioners, and it has not been infiltrated or dominated by fundamentalists. On the contrary, it is allowed to make very big improvements, especially in concrete terms, for example, of chaplains in prisons and the military, in terms of halal meat, in terms of lamb slaughter for the Eid festivities, etc.
I guess we’ll get back to this in the questions and answers, so I will conclude now and be glad to take your questions.
CHRIS SOPER: On behalf of my fellow panelists, I’d like to thank the Pew Forum for organizing our conversation on a very timely topic. There is a lot of debate about church-state relations in Europe and the United States. Too little of it is informed. But to its great credit, the Pew Forum – through its various initiatives and its research reports – encourages an informed conversation on what I think everybody in this room would agree is a very important, but often very controversial topic.
My fellow panelists have demonstrated ably that the role of religion in the United States and Europe is in many ways a study of contrasts, and I would argue also of ironies. With the exception of France, the institutional model for church-state relations in Europe is one of close cooperation between the state and the churches or other religious bodies. Typically, European states fund religious schools. There is formal religious worship and instruction in state-run schools, and the government and religious agencies work as partners in providing social welfare services.
The United States, of course, has a strong tradition of church-state separation. It is unlawful for the state to fund private, religious schools. The Supreme Court has barred religious exercises from the public schools, and there remain deep tensions on how close the government may work with religious agencies in the delivery of social services.
Given these policy differences, one can imagine that a Martian sitting in this room would logically conclude that the social significance and political power of religious groups must be greater in Europe than in the United States. But this, of course, could not be further from the truth. Religious groups are a significant factor in party politics in the United States. They are only of marginal significance in Europe. And secularism, which has taken such a firm hold in European states, is much more on the defensive in the United States.
If that irony isn’t juicy enough for you, consider this one. European political elites are often quite keen to move closer to an American model of church-state separation, while many American policymakers would like to move toward the European practice of state accommodation of religious groups, perhaps proving the dictum that the policy grass is always greener on the other side of the Atlantic. Well, what do we make of these contrasts, and what, if anything, do they portend to the future of church-state relations?
David asked me to serve as cleanup, which I was happy to do, because I was never able to do that in my prodigious Little League baseball career. I am going to offer three hypotheses about what the future might look like on these issues in Europe and the United States. I guess three – Bill also had three, very Trinitarian of us; I guess that presumes certain Christian assumptions, even on this panel.
First of all, I think that we can expect more calls from European political elites for the state to remove itself from the business of recognizing churches and granting them any statutory privileges, moving closer to an American style of church-state separation. Policymakers will argue, with some justification, that the close pact between church and state in Europe is something of a historical anomaly. The immigration and settlement of Muslims will likely hasten this secular policy trend, as elites conclude that the political disputes around religion that are visiting every European country are simply not worth the cost of maintaining the inherited church-state links.
That Muslims in each of these countries tend to be more religious and attach a greater importance to their faith is a further problem for many policymakers who have difficulty contemplating anything but the most privatized of faiths. Like the Peace of Westphalia before it, such a policy will be sold with the claim that it will help to depoliticize religious conflict. That the political experience of France, which has such a system of church-state separation, has hardly led to political peace on the religious front will probably not dissuade those secular policy voices.
A second trend that seems likely, given the presentations that we’ve heard this afternoon, is that there will continue to be conflict on a challenge that is fundamental to any liberal polity. How far can a liberal state go to permit or even promote practices that are apparently illiberal? A related question is this one – to what extent do apparently illiberal and undemocratic voluntary associations, particularly religious institutions, promote patterns of conduct that weaken liberal democratic states? This is particularly relevant as it relates to the Muslim experience in the United States and Europe, but it is fundamentally the same question that is posed to any religious group whose viewpoints are seen to be at odds with those of the liberal culture around them.
As to the first question, can a liberal state tolerate apparently illiberal groups, every country that has been mentioned this afternoon has debated the compatibility of certain forms of Islam with the needs of the liberal polity. That controversy is only going to intensify. It is important to point out, however, that this debate is hardly new. A part of the rationale for the 19th century common school movement in the United States was that American society was supposedly being overwhelmed by millions of hard-to-assimilate Roman Catholic immigrants unschooled in democratic liberal values. Catholic allegiance to a foreign power and a foreign ideology made them suspect in the eyes of many Americans, a charge that historically seems ridiculous but is easier to understand if you read the encyclicals produced by the popes throughout the 19th century.
The rhetoric is nearly identical as it relates to Muslims in the United States and Europe. This is not to suggest that there are not real questions on how best to incorporate religious newcomers into the values of a liberal polity, but simply as a warning that any claims that particular religious groups cannot be assimilated have been made before and have been wrong before. Not to be myopic, but here I believe the experience of the United States is one that can be instructive for West European states, where the assimilative powers of our institutions and practices have successfully incorporated religious groups whose doctrines might seem, or are, incompatible with liberal, political norms. Churches and synagogues have been agents of assimilation in the past, and there is no reason to conclude that mosques cannot do so in the future.
Policymakers would do well, in my view, to take a page from Bill Galston’s very fine book, Liberal Pluralism: The Implications of Value Pluralism for Political Theory in Practice. He wasn’t even on my dissertation committee, so I’m doing this just because it was a very good book. In that book he honors the principle of what he calls expressive liberty, a presumption , as he writes, “in favor of individuals and groups leading their lives as they see fit within a broad range of legitimate variation in accordance with their own understanding of what gives life meaning and value.” Here, I think, the United States can learn something from Europe, where at least in its public policy, if not always in its cultural assumptions, the state generally provides its religious citizens a greater scope for their expressive liberty concerns in such areas as education and social welfare provision than does the United States.
A final trend that I foresee is that Christians, Muslims and Jews will form a political coalition to protect the very idea that the state should accommodate, recognize or aid religion. There are voices on both sides of the Atlantic asserting the danger of religion in public life. In considering Turkey’s bid for entrance into the European Union, former French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin rhetorically asked, do we want the river of Islam to enter the riverbed of European secularism? In his recent best-selling book Letter to a Christian Nation, Sam Harris has written of the danger of politically engaged Christians. If such attitudes are indicative of the views of political leaders and policymakers, religionists might well conclude that secularism is a threat that Christians, Muslims and Jews share.
I opened with two ironies in comparing church-state relations in Europe and the United States, and I close with this one. It would be supremely ironic or possibly the work of a benign deity with a supremely active sense of humor if, after centuries of dispute, it was secularism rather than religion that brought religionists together.
MASCI: Thank you, Chris. Thanks to all of our speakers for their excellent presentations. I’m going to open up the floor to questions, and I’d like to start actually by offering the members of the press who are sitting here an opportunity to go first.
MIKES ZOLTAN, WORLD BUSINESS PRESS, SLOVAKIA: I observe that here in the U.S. religion plays a much greater role like in Europe. How long do you think that it will last, this separation between church and state? Will it survive another President Bush, or somebody like this, and his appointees on the Supreme Court if they get more religious?
MASCI: This is the point that Kevin Phillips and other authors have been making recently about the encroaching theocracy. Does anyone want to take that, Bill?
GALSTON: My answer will not contribute to a good story, but I will give it to you anyway. I’m not speaking, as people know, as a particular fan of this administration, but the dangers of theocracy in the United States are greatly exaggerated, in my opinion. Not only is the legal structure firmly against it – some of the most conservative members of the Supreme Court have been the authors of the opinions most hostile to organized religion – but it’s also the case that the vast majority of American religious believers are themselves strongly anti-theocratic. Whenever there seems to be a tendency toward an excess in this regard, there is always a counter-reaction in the United States that thwarts it. We have many things to fear in the coming decades; theocracy is not one of them.
IRINA AKIMUSHKINA, BUSINESS PEOPLE MAGAZINE, RUSSIA: What is the opinion of our distinguished scholars on religion about introducing a history of religion course, not selectively, to all schools – public, private, in Europe and America – for secondary education? I know that there are such courses at the university level and also some schools are offering this course as an elective. If these courses are taught, not by priests and mullahs but social scientists, to give young people who are living in multicultural and multi-religion societies an idea about many religions, customs, traditions and so on, do you think this idea could work for alleviation of tension between certain religious groups or not?
MASCI: Before we get to the panel, it is certainly constitutional to teach that kind of a course here. So would it be a good idea? And for those on the panel who are focused a little more on Europe, are such courses taught in Europe? And if so, would this tamp down religious tensions? Sam?
CHERRIBI: I think it would be a great idea to teach a course like this in Europe, especially if you focus on the Mediterranean as a place where the three religions came from, to in fact abolish this idea of exclusiveness, because all the religions are mutually exclusive. Only Christianity, in a way, is really taught in Europe. They have started to do it in some schools, but they still do it from a really religious perspective. But when you do it from an anthropological, philosophical and historical perspective, you will explain the sociogenesis of the democratic deficit of some or why some religions became secular or not. Then you will address the issue much better with students, and you will have less stigmatization when it comes to why Islam is not secular, for example, and why Christianity is more secular, and Judaism, than Islam.
MASCI: Anyone else want to take that one?
GALSTON: Well let me not only endorse the idea but tell you that in at least one state, the state of Georgia, there is now an active discussion in the legislature of instituting precisely such a course in public schools – our Georgia, not your Georgia. (Laughter.) I think that there is a growing sense that ignorance of the basics of religion and the history of religion leads to a falsification of the history of America, because the interpenetration of religion and our political institutions and the rest of our culture is so complete.
MICHAEL MCGOUGH, LOS ANGELES TIMES: This is a question mostly for Mr. Soper and Mr. Galston. One idea I think is sort of counterintuitive but came out of this panel is that it isn’t just this secularist Supreme Court that is keeping religion and politics and government from mixing more, but that there is a real sense of ambivalence among religious people about how involved they should be. And so, I’d like to ask you both; maybe you have some perspective on this from when you were in the administration. Just to take one example, if there were no court decisions prohibiting it, would, say, the Catholic bishops of America be willing to have Catholic schools in America subjected to the same kind of very intense, bureaucratic supervision by the government that the Catholic schools in Britain have, which includes the local education authorities advertising for faculty members. The tradeoff is that they get about a 90 percent subsidy in some cases. I guess the question for Chris Soper is, are there voices against the faith-based initiative among religious people in this country who are worried along the same lines that federal aid means federal control?
SOPER: I think religious schools would take that choice in the United States. We could argue whether it would be good or bad for them. But if you look at the experiences of every other country that has such an arrangement – England, Australia, the Netherlands – you don’t have a huge lobby of religious schools saying we’re not going to take this money, we’re going to go our own way. I expect the same thing would happen for religious schools in the United States, although then we could get to the question of whether or not it would be good for religious schools to be in such a situation. I still think they would conclude that it would be.
There are a few voices among religionists who argue that the faith-based initiative is too much, that it brings too much federal control. But they are certainly in the minority, and obviously they’re not obligated to accept those funds. But it may be if there really is more federal intrusion, they will start saying it’s not worth it.
MASCI: Anyone else want to pick up on that?
GALSTON: I think the attitudes of American religious leaders and religious communities toward greater state involvement in their activities are affected by general American attitudes toward the state, which are not – the default position is not affirmative, unlike France, where the default position is affirmative. For that reason, the question of bureaucratic intrusion always bulks very large in American discourse, whether you’re talking about secular individuals and organizations or religious institutions and organizations. I have studied Catholic schools, and it’s by no means clear to me that they would accept that devil’s bargain – by no means clear. Autonomy is such a central American value for both secular and religious purposes that I think there is a line beyond which even impecunious local bishops would not go.
SOPER: But it’s also not clear to me that if we went to such a system in the United States it would look like the system in the UK, because we have a tradition of local control of schools through local school districts. So I’m not sure that even if we went to that, it would look like the European model.
GALSTON: Well, if the money is laundered through vouchers as it is in Cleveland, then there is no problem.
HANNE SKARTVEIT: I’m a Norwegian journalist. I have a question which there is no square answer to, I know. But I’m asking still if any of the panelists have thought about to what extent successful integration of Muslims in American society has to do with the number and the kind of people coming and tolerance in the American society toward religious practice? In other words, to what extent do the Europeans have themselves, or ourselves, to blame for the situation in Europe?
MASCI: What she asked was essentially can someone talk a little bit about the reasons why Muslim integration seems to be going better here in the United States than it is in Europe? Is it because America has a tradition of integrating newcomers? Is it religious toleration and also just toleration for new ethnic groups? What are the factors that seem to be making it work better – assuming it is working better here than in Western Europe?
VAN DER VYVER: I think this is a complicated question and different from state to state. I spend most of my summers in Germany teaching there, and I know that the Germans are extremely sensitive to the tremendous increase of the Turkish population in Germany. Part of it is Germans don’t assimilate people that are not German quite easily. You always remain an Ausländer. And so the lack of assimilation, the tremendous high birth rate within the Turkish community, the low birth rate within the German community – I’ve even heard Germans say they fear that Germans might become a minority within their own country over a period of time.
The question in France and Greece – and Greece doesn’t have the same problem, but the same principle applies – is that they are not favorably disposed in international law terms to the principle of self-determination of religious communities. In France and in Greece – and Turkey is also something like this – they believe if you live in that country, then you’re a Frenchman or you’re a Greek or you are a Turk. And we do not accommodate the minority perceptions of people that constitute something other than French or Greek or Turkish, so that you will also see in international instruments that those three countries have always distanced themselves from the international law principle of the right to self-determination of peoples within the community.
And so, different countries have different problems. I just wanted to make this passing remark following upon what he said about the head scarf case before the European Court of Human Rights concerning both France and Turkey. In the case of France, the European Court of Human Rights upheld the prohibition simply because there were violent tensions between the Muslim community and the French community, and displaying in public schools your Islamic identity would enhance that friction. For that reason, the European Court of Human Rights would not intervene and say this was undue discrimination. So the problems are slightly more difficult from country to country, and based on tensions, problems may be unique to one country and not to all of Europe.
VAISSE: You gave a number of factors trying to explain why it worked or did not work, and in my presentation I insisted on one, which was socioeconomic status. It’s evident, for example, if you take the French territory of Reunion in the Indian Ocean, where Muslims are numerous and where they are rather richer than the average population, things go perfectly well. That’s anecdotal evidence, but still it shows that the dirty little secret is that social conditions and economic conditions are essential to a sense of belonging, of feeling at ease in a country.
The second factor you gave was the origin of the population. Actually, I am not convinced that it plays such a role, or at least I think it’s a role that is not as important as a third factor, which is the political culture of the state that is considered. Once again, in the fine study of Muslim Americans that is available just out of the door here on page three, not only in this chart does Andrew Kohut give the socioeconomic status compared with the general population, but then it gives the number of Muslims who think of themselves as Muslim first, not American, British, French, German, etc., and you see interesting differences among the countries. I will let you go deeper into that.
Political culture is also about what the landscape is in terms of cultural and religious settings. I would subscribe to what Professor Van der Vyver just said about the notion that when you are French, you are not Muslim French. You are French and that is it. And French Muslims are big fans of laïcité by 86 to 89 percent, depending on the poll that you consider. They say that they have a very positive image of laïcité because it allows them to practice their religion. Even if there is discrimination – a very important one – even if there are socioeconomic problems, at least it’s a promise that with time they can integrate without problem.
CHERRIBI: Just one sentence – in America, we see a citizen in the Muslim and the migrant; in Europe, we see the Muslim and the migrant in the citizen. This is a major problem. Just read the book of Michele Lamont about France, and that will tell you how integrated our second generation of Muslims in France are and how marginalized from the labor market they are. Just read it. She’s a professor at Harvard University. It’s a very fantastic book with great statistics. America has a lot of experience with hyphenated identities – French-American, European-American. Europe is not even at that stage yet; this is the problem. Professor Van der Vyver explained that. We are just still struggling with it.
Here is a very interesting example. The last time one of the candidates for the presidential election was asked why we don’t abolish the idea that if somebody is illegal in the U.S. and his daughter is born in the U.S., he cannot become an American citizen. He said this is against American values, this is against the Constitution. The French – (inaudible) – they abolish it without a problem. There was not even a big discussion about it. But with the Americans, there’s a big democratic discussion about it.
MASCI: Before we go to the next question, just a quick one for Justin. Given what Sam has just said, is the French assimilationist model very nice in theory but not really working very well in practice?
VAISSE: Yeah, that’s a way to put it. Models are fine. You would find tolerance in the Netherlands and multiculturalism in England, and then the French citizen model in France, so it’s nice to cast the problem in these terms. What we’ve seen is that all models fail to one degree or another, and this answers your question, which is that in theory all citizens are equal, but then when you get to a nightclub or a real estate rental agency or you want to get an internship or a job, then you discover that when you’re named Mohammed, it’s a bit more difficult than when you’re named Jean-Pierre or Francois.
And so, yes. However, it’s also true that it’s the same problem as with the civil rights fight of the ’60s. People who want greater equality don’t need to make a revolution. They just want to reclaim the ideals of the country. That’s exactly what the civil rights fight was about, the full advocation of American ideals, principles and credo. For the French it’s the same. They just want the full application of the French ideals of liberté, egalité and fraternité.
MASCI: The new president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, says that one way to grapple with this problem is to institute a French version of affirmative action. Would you like to comment on that?
VAISSE: Yeah, he has been at the forefront of this question, and many experiments have been done in civil society, especially where I teach at Sciences Po, and corporations also have done a lot with the – (inaudible) – diversité. It’s a big question because when you get affirmative action, then you designate people, and this is against the French principle of not identifying citizens by their origin, whether their regional origin – and that gets us back to the non-ratification of the language minority chart that Sam was alluding to – regional origin, ethnic origin, religious origin, etc. It’s just a citizen. So doing affirmative action, which is necessary to some extent, would go against this principle. It is going to be a big debate now and probably there will be some reforms.
GERHARD HELSKOG, TV2 NORWAY: In Norway we have a state church, which almost everybody is a member of and nobody really cares. We don’t have religion discussion as you have in the United States. I wonder what that does to you as a human, when you see the integration of the Muslims in the United States – we don’t always see the brain drain, we also see illiterate Somali refugees greeted by church groups, because the church groups understand what their obligation is.
If you ask an American what it is to be an American, they obviously understand that. They say freedom and justice for all every morning at school. What is it to be a German? What is it to be a Frenchman? If we don’t know that because we don’t have the spiritual discussion, do we then have a problem greeting foreigners – not only see them as intruders but also as someone who wants to go into your club and be a member of your idea. Do we understand your idea? To the contrary of what we Europeans often think, are the American people more intellectual, more spiritual than we are?
MASCI: Anybody want to start with that one? Are we more intellectual and more spiritual?
VAN DER VYVER: Can I just make this comment that when neighboring states de-established, I read quite a number of comments from church leaders who say this was a liberation of the church because of state control over the church. If I could just make an obnoxious remark, if I were an Englishman, I wouldn’t like to have been a member of the Church of England, thinking that the prince might become head of the church.
So it’s not only looked at from the perspective of the individual that is marginalized for not belonging to the church, but the church itself is liberated by abandoning state control for the appointment of clergy, and so on and so forth.
GALSTON: Let me first affirm one premise of your argument, and that is that church groups in the United States have been an enormous force for a moral and welcoming attitude toward people in need. This has been characteristic of many faiths in this country, local congregations in particular. But I would like to broaden and complicate the discussion by telling you and everybody else about an experience that I had at a conference in Munich about a year and a half ago. The premise of the conference was Secular Europe, Religious America – question mark. And for the first day and a half, I didn’t understand what the question mark was doing there. Then, in the afternoon of the second day, a German law professor gave a long speech, which seemed very bland to me.
But then, about 30 minutes in, he suddenly diverged and started talking about Turkey. He said the entrance of Turkey into the EU is quite impossible, and I expected him to go on to talk about the economic pressures of this very populous nation on voting rights. But no, he didn’t say that. He said, it’s very simple – Turkey is Muslim, whatever its official laws may say, and the essence of European civilization is Christianity, and it is quite impossible to include a fundamentally Islamic civilization in a fundamentally Christian civilization.
So unlike France, where the clash was between Islam and secularism, in Germany – according to this professor – the clash was between Islam and Christianity. Now this was in Munich, the heart of Catholic Germany. I found that nobody in the audience of some hundreds disagreed with him. Then when I started talking with some of my friends who had been in the northern heartland of Protestant Germany, they reported exactly the same sentiment, from which I draw the following conclusion – perhaps Europe is a little bit more Christian than the official polling statistics might suggest, and that might add a complex layer to the discussion. It may be that, in some respects, European civilization is more Christian than American civilization – all appearances to the contrary.
MASCI: Let me actually follow up on that for a second and ask, especially the people who focus on Europe. I remember reading that former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing said when talking about Turkey that it was also impossible for the same reasons that the professor in Munich did. And I remember thinking to myself, isn’t this the man who shepherded the European Constitution through its conference without any reference to Christianity or God? I know that was quite controversial at the time. So I remember asking myself – is it that d’Estaing is a secularist unless he’s talking about Islam or Turkey and then he becomes a Christian? Is there some sort of dynamic like that at work, not just in places like Germany, but even in secular France – or among politicians who have traditionally been secular?
VAISSE: No, not really inside France, but inside the European Union. Certainly it appeared when the EU Constitutional Treaty was discussed, to decide whether it would include the preamble recalling the moral and Christian heritage of Europe. The fight was basically pitting the Poles and German CSU – as Bill was mentioning – and some southern Europeans, some Spaniards and Portuguese, against a more secular-minded group led by the French that just didn’t want any mention of this, not really for the purpose of making the entrance of Turkey easier or more possible, but rather because of the thought that the separation of religion and politics was a fundamental axiom, a fundamental mantra. Not exactly the right words, but a principle. And so, you saw this fight on different occasions, and the last one was about the EU Constitutional Treaty.
CHERRIBI: Yet when you talk about the Constitutional Treaty and Europe, two important countries – France and the Netherlands – were the only stable nations in Europe in the ’60s, according to General Charles de Gaulle. They were not divided along ethnic lines or linguistic lines as in Belgium; they were not divided like Germany. And still, these two countries voted against the Constitutional Treaty. For example, in the Netherlands, the “no” camp succeeded in framing the vote against the constitution in terms of Turkey. They framed it absolutely against Turkey: Europe will be Islamized. In France, it was not exactly that way.
But, two things I want to say- Jacques Julliard, one of the greatest journalists of France – (in French) – was at Emory University and spoke, and he said, don’t forget 1683, the Battle of Vienna. The European identity is constituted against Islam, against the Turkish identity. This is one.
Second thing, Europe doesn’t have a president, but it has a presidency. The EU presidency was the German presidency, and Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, just said we have to introduce God – the Christian God – and a reference to Christianity because they are talking about the constitution.
I do not want to forget that my queen – I’m Dutch – in the 1990s came to the Council of Europe and said, we have to make a reference to Christian identity in anything we do in Europe.
CATHY COSMAN, U.S. COMMISSION ON INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: I was wondering whether when we say Christian, in terms of Europe, maybe we mean tradition in a broad sense, and particularly in the case of France and its policy of laïcité. Nevertheless, in the schools, as I understand it, they still observe Catholic holidays, and the teachers threaten to strike if those holidays are abolished. Perhaps the real issue for Europe is demography. I believe Italy has the world’s lowest birth rate – and there are many other European countries that have low birth rates – so the question is, where will the future workers of Europe come from? Turkey and North Africa, as far as I can see, will be the majority.
Finally, since the title of the talk is Europe, I was wondering what is happening in Eastern Europe – i.e. Orthodox Europe – and the model the Austrian law and approach to church-state relations. Thanks.
MASCI: There’s a lot to chew on. Does anyone want to start with that? Justin?
VAISSE: If the teachers are threatening to strike, I’m sure you know that it’s not for defending their Catholic rights, and they are probably the most opposed. Who can resist a good strike in France? (Laughter.) There have been many proposals, including by the Stasi Commission. Bernard Stasi was the head of a committee – a sort of blue-ribbon committee – that advocated about 20 reforms, including the ban of head scarves in public schools – head scarves and large crosses and yarmulkes in public schools. But there were many other proposals, including the replacement of one of the Catholic days off with one for Yom Kippur and one for the Eid festivity. That was one idea – not for all of France, but only for schools.
The way it works now is that students are granted permission when they invoke this to take a day off for, for example, Yom Kippur or the Eid or other religious observances. And teachers are requested not to hold important tests on these days so as not to penalize them.
MASCI: Anyone else? Chris, since this is somewhat in your realm.
SOPER: Well, just on the demographic point, I think you’re absolutely right. It’s crucial for European states to figure out ways to recognize the religious rights of Muslims that are respectful of their religious practices and that will lead to their successful incorporation into European society, because it is unimaginable that they’re going to disappear – sort of like imagining that 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States are going to somehow magically disappear. If Muslims in Western Europe did disappear, Europe would be in an even dicier situation. So again, from a policy standpoint, I think it’s absolutely crucial. I think policymakers are wrestling with the question of what are the best policies that will ensure their successful incorporation into the values of this country while recognizing their rights to religious practice and exercise.
GALSTON: I would just add that in one pointed sentence, Justin Vaisse has brought us to the heart of contemporary French culture. And that sentence is: Who can resist a good strike? Write that down, folks. That’s the heart of the matter.
CHRISTIAN WERNICKE, SÜEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: As a European – and not only as a German – the most fascinating difference between Europe and America is the constant appeal to God in American politics. Especially under this administration, whether you look at George W. Bush or [former aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales] Monica Goodling, how she handles the Justice Department, it is God that drives a lot of politics in this country.
If this were to happen in France, Germany or the UK, I think a lot of the electorate and a lot of the politicians would be – to be very frank and without putting anybody down – embarrassed. Could you analyze this difference in the role of religion in the public discourse?
MASCI: Just to follow up on what he said – is it as simple as this is just a much more religious country and that’s what the politics is throwing up or is it deeper than that? Are there other factors at work? Bill?
GALSTON: Well, that’s a very interesting question. I have a hypothesis off the top of my head, and that is that it’s not simply a question of being religious; it’s a question of the basic style of religion. There is a style of what I’ll call confessional Protestantism, where the idea of making a public profession of one’s faith is not accidental or external to one’s faith but comes close to the heart of the matter. I do know that in American religion there are degrees of comfort and discomfort with that idea of the public confession. Many mainstream Protestants are uncomfortable with it; many Catholics are uncomfortable with it. But Evangelical Protestants are entirely comfortable with it. So to some extent, it’s a modern phenomenon that reflects the rise and greater vitality of that form of Protestantism in the past 30 or 40 years in American culture.
But there is another historical dimension, which is less variable. And that is that from the beginning, there has been the assumption – if you go back and take a look at 17th century sermons – the idea of America as the new Israel and the new Americans as, in effect, the 13th tribe, with a similar aspect of chosenness and special mission, a sense of a real interpenetration between America’s purposes and God’s purposes. I wish I could tell you this was something that was invented five years ago, but it was invented 400 years ago and is part of the DNA of American culture, which will not go away, although it will be stronger at some times than at others.
MARY MULLEN, BOSNIA SUPPORT COMMITTEE: I was reading the Guardian newspaper, and there was an advertisement for a teacher in Northern Ireland in an integrated school. But it said at the bottom that the teacher had to be able to prepare the children for the sacraments, which would be confession and communion. I was wondering how an integrated school could require a teacher – it would have to be a Catholic teacher – I just was a little confused because I know Northern Ireland is now trying to integrate, and I was wondering how well it is integrating and how is it integrating.
VAN DER VYVER: I can just make this side remark that we had a lecture from someone from Northern Ireland recently at Emory, and she made the point that segregated schools for the different religions in Northern Ireland must not be judged through the same spectrum as segregation or desegregation in the United States, because there it is the minority group that wants to be segregated. So she spoke out in favor of segregated schools. I think her premise was that integration of the schools is not going to solve their problem, that the problem has to be solved at a different level – the conflict between the Catholics and the Protestants.
SOPER: At the risk of saying something about which I know almost nothing, which is Northern Ireland, it sounds like it may be what Americans would style a release time program, where the state-run schools allow instruction in the religious tradition that the parents choose for their children. So children can choose to get Roman Catholic education or Protestant education. If you have a system like that, it seems perfectly reasonable to say, this is the release time program for the Roman Catholic children. Consequently, we are going to expect that the person who teaches this class will teach the traditions and practices of the Roman Catholic Church. That would be my guess as to what would be going on there.
MASCI: One big difference between what she described and the U.S. is in the U.S. our courts have said you can’t do that in the school. You can let students go, but you can’t do that in the school.
LAUREN SMITH, AMERICANS UNITED FOR SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE: This question is for anyone, but I’d appreciate a comparison between the U.S. model and the majority of the European models. What is the impact of church-state relations on people’s religiosity in each of those countries?
VAISSE: What do you mean the impact?
SMITH: (Off mike) – how religious people are and how, for example, most Americans go to church or observe some religious practice during the week, whereas Europeans tend to stay away and only go on Christmas. How does the separation of church and state in each of our two countries affect that, if at all?
VAISSE: I don’t have a straight answer. The process of secularization in Europe, especially in France, began in the 18th century, if not the 17th – but mostly the 18th century. At the time of the French Revolution, it was well underway. People were still massively Christian or Protestant or Jewish, but it began then. Then in the 19th century it just reinforced itself with the political upheavals that I mentioned earlier – the fact that the Catholic Church was linked with the reactionary party, with the monarchy, etc. It’s more the historical process that affected secularization.
SOPER: I was just going to say that religiosity is an extremely complex factor. I’m not going to give you the quote that I think your organization wants, which I suppose would be the problem with Europe is that they have these recognized churches, and that’s why no one goes to church. I don’t doubt that there is something to that. The question from our Scandinavian friend might have implied that there may be a sense for some Europeans that they’re just naturally born into a particular tradition and there is no need then to go to church because they’re just members by osmosis or something. That may be a factor.
But I think more important is the religious competition that has always been present in the United States and that has not historically been present in most European countries, at least since the Peace of Westphalia. What is an interesting sociological question to ask is, now that there is some real religious competition in European states, are we going to start to see more people going to church? Does it all of a sudden mean something in France to be Roman Catholic when you look around and 10 percent of the population is Islamic and is practicing? So that may be one way to test the religious competition model that is often used to explain church participation rates in the States.
MASCI: If I can just ask – because I know everyone wants to comment on your question here – what about the rise of churches in Europe, especially in England, from the developing world, places like Africa where you have Pentecostals coming in and building these big churches and reaching out to native-born Europeans. What sort of impact do you think they may have?
SOPER: Well, there certainly is no question that the growing concern in a country like the UK are the churches you just described, the Caribbean churches, the Pentecostal churches. You’re starting to see more of the American model, even in the Church of England, which is certain parishes adopting more Pentecostal forms of worship like those that seem to be on the rise in America.
VAISSE: Just briefly, Chris’ answer made me think of other possible elements for you. The first is that when there was the law of separation of church and state in France, the most important law was in 1905. What we saw was that the Catholic Church was much more active and vibrant in the 1950s than in the 1890s or in the 1900s. And so, that would give some element.
The second thing that Chris made me think of was – (in French) – in the outskirts of Paris, Lyon, Marseille, the fastest growing religion is Evangelicals, especially among either French of African descent or Maghrebian descent, but mostly from the West Indies or from Black Africa. That’s the religion that is growing the fastest.
And yes,- to answer Chris’ question – there has been circumstantial evidence that even among Catholics there has been a cultural identity reaction, especially that you can see for the fast – an answer to the observance of the Ramadan, which is the most observed element of the Muslim faith, at least in France. You are a Muslim basically because you are doing the Ramadan, even if you never go to a mosque, even if you don’t do the five prayers a day; but the Ramadan is really the identity marker. What we’ve seen in recent years in France among Catholics is a revival of fasting before Easter. That’s circumstantial evidence, but that’s interesting nonetheless.
CHERRIBI: Before what we called a discourse struggle two centuries ago in the Netherlands, we sent most of the very rigid Protestants to Grand Rapids in America. Most people now are OK – (laughter) – and since then, we had a system of pillarization – the Catholics, the Protestants and the ones who go to public schools. In the 1960s, we had a kind of de-pillarization of society, that is, a huge decline of churchgoers, and at the same time, registrations of denominations in civil registers. But especially in the 1980s, a growth of Islam really and also some Pentecostal religions, especially Ghanaians coming from Ghana. The interesting thing about all the Protestant churches from the Dutch Reform Church to other churches, they coalesced after having 40 years of problems and divides and created one big church. But still, people are not very interested yet in Protestantism.
GALSTON: Well, your question has sparked a fascinating contrast, but also complementarity between the sociological analysis and what I will boldly call the economic analysis. I said in my remarks that the basic template for American religion is congregational, which means largely financially self-supporting. Now, what’s characteristic of entities that are largely financially self-supporting is that they have to think all the time about the needs of actual or potential congregants because otherwise they will not be able to sustain themselves. And so, I think that there is a big difference in the incentive structure between religions organizations that receive money from the state and don’t have to compete for that money and where the money is not proportional to the number of people who show up in the pews every Sunday, as opposed to churches that live or die by the size of the congregation and the willingness of the congregation to contribute. Many of us belong to such entities.
UNIDENTIFIED: (Inaudible, off mike) – so you see the legal structure impacting the institutions rather than -.
GALSTON: No, I see the legal structure as having an impact on the behavior of the institution, which in turn structures the relationship between the institution and the individual.
VAN DER VYVER: I am tempted to put a South African touch to this as well, because the wonderful thing of the South African Constitutional Court is to recognize that religion is so important to the state because it makes you a better citizen, it teaches you a certain moral conception, you tend to shy away from crime. That is why there are wonderful citations from judgments of the South African Constitutional Court on how important it is for the state to have a religious community within society. That is why South Africa encourages religious training in schools only on the basis that all religions must be given a fair share and it’s not to be monopolized by a particular religion.
STEPHEN LAZARUS, THE CENTER FOR PUBLIC JUSTICE: There is a quote by Peter Berger that is getting cited quite a lot these days and that is that America, in terms of its religious fervor – our religious bumper stickers and things that Europeans are a little bit aghast at sometimes – America is a nation of Indians, like in India, ruled by a public Swedish elite, in terms of their secularity. I wonder if maybe that needs to be nuanced a little bit by saying that what he’s really getting at there is that there is a kind of schizophrenia in that we’re free to allow religious freedom to flourish in terms of our private lives. But certainly when it comes to things like public institutions, there is more of an informal establishment of secularism in that it’s only recently we get constitutionality of things like funding for religious schools, which in France, that’s not a surprising thing, nor would the essential policy idea of the faith-based initiative be.
Even then, in the schools it’s just if it’s done in a certain way. So that maybe there is a kind of schizophrenia and a very secularizing character to things when it comes not to private religious observance but things connected with public life, the government, etc.
MASCI: Did anyone want to comment on that?
SOPER: Just briefly, I think you’d be hard-pressed to describe President Bush as Swedish – (laughter) – as an outlier on these questions. I would say it was before him. It was under President Clinton, after all, that charitable choice came about. That may have been truer 15 or 20 years ago. But I think that it’s far less true now. If you look at the rhetoric of the Democratic candidates, there is much greater sympathy toward religion generally and to specific policy initiatives that in a previous decade would have been seen as out of bounds for the Democratic Party. So I understand the point; I think it’s less true now than it would have been 10 or 15 years ago. (Cross talk.)
VAISSE: Very briefly, it’s a follow-up to my quote of the Pew poll on whether it’s necessary to believe in God to be moral. The question was also asked to journalists, and we are in the National Press Club, so I am happy to put this to journalists versus the general public in America. You remember that to the question, is it necessary to believe in God to be moral, the general public in the U.S. said yes by 58 percent and no by 40 percent. When you ask journalists, they all answer no, by big majorities. Depending on their ideology, conservatives say no, it’s not necessary by 72 percent. Moderates say it’s not necessary to believe in God to be moral by 85 percent, basically the French rate. Liberals say it’s not necessary to believe in God to be moral by 96 percent. So I find that interesting in terms of elite analysis vis-à-vis the average American population.
GALSTON: Well, first of all, I would bet if you’d put that question to a third group, namely politicians, you would have gotten a much less secular response. Even if it had been done anonymously, you would have gotten a less secular response. Journalists, I think, are the epicenter of American secularism. But I do want to endorse the proposition that in my adult political lifetime, the relationship between the mass and the elites has undergone a number of changes, and we have to look at the history of this. It is very important that the price of John F. Kennedy’s election in 1960 was that he had to swear an oath of separationism. So the strict separationism that characterized the 1960s through the 1980s stems in part from the terms that Protestant America dictated to Catholics for full entrance into American public life; think about that. It took us a while to get beyond that conception of how different religions could occupy the public and political square in America.
MASCI: Thank you. I want to thank all of the speakers for the very fine work they did. I also want to thank you so much for coming.
This transcript has been edited for clarity, spelling and grammar by Amy Stern.