Back when the U.S.A. invaded Iraq, the French refused to join the “coalition of the willing” and opposed our efforts, leading to Americans making fun of French military prowess and making anti-French gestures such as re-labeling a favorite food indulgence as “freedom fries.” But now the French–not us–have embarked on a military invasion of a Muslim country, the West African nation of Mali (a former French colony) in order to quell al Qaeda terrorism and the establishment of an Islamist state. Not only that, this is the work of the left-wing socialist government of President Francois Hollande, who is as far from a George W. Bush figure as one could imagine. Evidently, the war on terrorism and fighting back against Islamic jihad is not necessarily a right/left, conservative/liberal issue. [Read more…]
France is also fighting a battle against gay marriage. But religion and politics are not really entering into it.
For Patrick Laplace, the mayor of this trim little town, the Socialist government’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage in France is a colossal mistake.
Laplace has not taken his stand for political reasons. He belongs to the Radical Party, a loyal ally of the majority Socialist Party in Parliament. Nor has he decided for religious reasons. Laplace has faith in God but puts no stock in the organized church. His opposition, he said, arises from a rational analysis defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman for family and filiation.
“And I’ve heard no one here in Blerancourt who disagrees with me,” Laplace, a 59-year-old former banking executive, said in his ornate town hall rising from the flatlands 75 miles northeast of Paris.
As President Francois Hollande’s government prepares to have its comfortable majority vote gay marriage into law, probably late next month, thousands of mayors, deputy mayors and other small-town officials across France have risen up to voice their opposition.
The movement largely ignores political and religious lines, according to its organizers. Instead, they say, it dramatizes another line, one that divides Paris, with its trends and politics, from the countless smaller communities around France where most people remain attached to timeless values in a tradition-heavy society with deep Christian roots. . . .
Here in France, the battle over gay marriage is being fought in the street and in the media, not in the courts. France being France, it is a battle that revolves around ideas and philosophy, not legalities.
Marriage is already a secular affair under the Napoleonic Code, with these mayors performing virtually all weddings, which then can be solemnized in a church. Would that Americans could address the issue in terms of ideas and philosophy!
But there is also a cultural divide between a sophisticated elite that assumes it can just change whatever it doesn’t like and ordinary folks who constitute traditional society.
The French government is planning a crack-down on people with what is being called “religious pathologies,” including those that are overly orthodox and traditional, want to be separate from secular society, or believe in creationism. From Reuters:
France will deport foreign-born imams and disband radical faith-based groups, including hardline traditionalist Catholics, if a new surveillance policy signals they suffer a “religious pathology” and could become violent.
A French Islamist shooting spree last March that killed three soldiers and four Jews showed how quickly religiously radicalized people could turn to force, Interior Minister Manuel Valls told a conference on the official policy of secularism.
His warning came two days after President Francois Hollande announced the creation of an agency to track how the separation of church and state is upheld in this traditionally Catholic country with Europe’s largest Muslim and Jewish minorities.
Valls and two other cabinet ministers told the conference on Tuesday evening the Socialist-led government would stress the secularist policy called “laicite” that they said was weakened under the previous conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy.
“The aim is not to combat opinions by force, but to detect and understand when an opinion turns into a potentially violent and criminal excess,” he said.
“The objective is to identify when it’s suitable to intervene to treat what has become a religious pathology,” said Valls, whose ministry oversees relations with religions.
France’s official secularism sidelines faith in the public sphere, but a trend towards a more visible religious identity among some Muslims, Jews and Catholics has made defending it a cause for the traditionally secularist left-wing parties.
Valls stressed the focus would be not only on radical Salafi Muslims recruiting among disaffected youths, but also on groups such as Civitas, a far-right lay Catholic movement that protests aggressively against what it calls insults to Christianity. . . .
Valls said the government had a duty to combat religious extremism because it was “an offence to the republic” based on a negation of reason that puts dogma ahead of the law.
Giving examples of religious extremists, he mentioned creationists in the United States and the Muslim world, radical Islamists, ultra-traditionalist Catholics and ultra-Orthodox Jews who want to live separately from the modern world.
Notice the psychologizing of the issues. Religion will not be persecuted because of their beliefs but because those who hold those beliefs will be considered to have a “pathological” condition.
Do you think this will spread from France? Is this what Christians will be facing everywhere, including in the United States? Perhaps a mental hospital if you believe in creationism?
HT: Trystan Bloom
Using the law to deny that a historical event occurred. Another example of the government and the law and unbelievers not understanding theology enough even to oppose it:
In France, an elderly man is fighting to make a formal break with the Catholic Church. He’s taken the church to court over its refusal to let him nullify his baptism, in a case that could have far-reaching effects.
Seventy-one-year-old Rene LeBouvier’s parents and his brother are buried in a churchyard in the tiny village of Fleury in northwest France. He himself was baptized in the Romanesque stone church and attended mass here as a boy. . . .
But his views began to change in the 1970s, when he was introduced to free thinkers. As he didn’t believe in God anymore, he thought it would be more honest to leave the church. So he wrote to his diocese and asked to be un-baptized. “They sent me a copy of my records, and in the margins next to my name, they wrote that I had chosen to leave the church,” he says.
That was in the year 2000. A decade later, LeBouvier wanted to go further. In between were the pedophile scandals and the pope preaching against condoms in AIDS-racked Africa, a position that LeBouvier calls “criminal.” Again, he asked the church to strike him from baptismal records. When the priest told him it wasn’t possible, he took the church to court.
Last October, a judge in Normandy ruled in his favor. The diocese has since appealed, and the case is pending.
“One can’t be de-baptized,” says Rev. Robert Kaslyn, dean of the School of Canon Law at the Catholic University of America.
Kaslyn says baptism changes one permanently before the church and God.
“One could refuse the grace offered by God, the grace offered by the sacrament, refuse to participate,” he says, “but we would believe the individual has still been marked for God through the sacrament, and that individual at any point could return to the church.”
French law states that citizens have the right to leave organizations if they wish. Loup Desmond, who has followed the case for the French Catholic newspaper La Croix, says he thinks it could set a legal precedent and open the way for more demands for de-baptism.
“If the justice confirms that the name Rene LeBouvier has to disappear from the books, if it is confirmed, it can be a kind of jurisprudence in France,” he says.
Up to now, observers say the de-baptism trend has been marginal, but it’s growing. In neighboring Belgium, the Brussels Federation of Friends of Secular Morality reports that 2,000 people asked to be de-baptized in 2010. The newspaper Le Monde estimated that about 1,000 French people a year ask to have their baptisms annulled.
The head of the International Monetary Fund, a likely Socialist candidate for the presidency of France, was yanked out of his first class cabin on a plane just before it was set to take off and was arrested for sexual assault.
Haggard and unshaven after a weekend in jail, the chief of the International Monetary Fund was denied release on bail Monday on charges of trying to rape a hotel maid as allegations of other, similar attacks by Dominique Strauss-Kahn began to emerge.
In France, a lawyer for a novelist said the writer is likely to file a criminal complaint accusing Strauss-Kahn of sexually assaulting her nine years ago. A French lawmaker accused him of attacking other maids in previous stays at the same luxury hotel. And in New York, prosecutors said they are working to verify reports of at least one other case, which they suggested was overseas.
Strauss-Kahn’s weekend arrest rocked the financial world as the IMF grapples with the European debt crisis, and upended French presidential politics. Strauss-Kahn, a member of France’s Socialist party, was widely considered the strongest potential challenger next year to President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Making his first appearance on the sex charges, a grim-looking Strauss-Kahn stood slumped before a judge in a dark raincoat and open-collared shirt. The 62-year-old, silver-haired Strauss-Kahn said nothing as a lawyer professed his innocence and strove in vain to get him released on bail.
The judge ruled against him after prosecutors warned that the wealthy banker might flee to France and put himself beyond the reach of U.S. law like the filmmaker Roman Polanski.
The story goes on to give the sordid details of the attack on the maid, an African immigrant, who went in to clean the $3000-per-night room and was attacked by the naked Strauss-Kahn. This was no sexual harassment charge by “puritanical” Americans, as some Frenchmen are saying. Rather, it was a brutal, violent attempted rape.
French President Sarkozy is the new George Bush, pushing the military intervention first in Libya and now in the Ivory Coast, where French-led UN forces, battling another murderous dictator, captured President Gbagbo, who was ousted in an election but refused to leave office. Now Europe is interventionist, while the United States comes in only reluctantly, if at all. Like Europe used to do.
Barack Obama swept to power in 2008 on a wave of anti-war sentiment, while David Cameron entered Downing Street last year insisting that the West “can’t drop democracy from 40,000ft”.
Yet the past three weeks have found the [UN security] council – this time with a less noisy Anglo-American wing – willing to pass stunningly powerful resolutions allowing missile strikes against murderous leaders.
Both resolution 1973 on Libya and resolution 1975 on Ivory Coast give external forces the authority to take “all necessary” measures to protect civilians from violence – practically a carte blanche.
A Western diplomat at the UN last night said the resolutions showed members were taking seriously the “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine, adopted in 2006, promising “timely and decisive action” against atrocities.
“TV pictures and the threat of humanitarian catastrophe have made people not want to wait for massacres to happen, as in Rwanda,” he said, in language strikingly reminiscent of the Blair-Clinton era.
The diplomat said that crucial in both cases had been the endorsement of action by the respective regional authorities – on Libya, the Arab League and on Ivory Coast, Ecowas and the African Union.
“It’s very difficult if you’re Russia or China to say ‘no’ if the Arabs and the Africans themselves are saying ‘yes’,” he said.
Also important has been the belligerence of Paris. The site of the Chirac-era “Non!” has become gung-ho, ensuring military – and symbolic – backing from the European mainland.
While Mr Obama has stayed almost invisible, the domestically embattled Nicolas Sarkozy has taken personal “ownership” of both interventions, rushing out his statements before anyone else.