French President Nicolas Sarkozy rejected calls for secular values to be enshrined into his country’s constitution and urged religious leaders to do more to spread their message in the country.
“A secular society is one which has decided to separate churches from the state, so the state doesn’t have to account for its choices to churches, and churches don’t depend on the state to live and organize -- this is secularity, a secular republic,” he told religious leaders.
“But this doesn’t mean churches, respecting the law, are forbidden from speaking. Nor does it mean your words shouldn’t go beyond the walls of your places of worship. That would be a strange idea of democracy: Everyone has a right to speak, except you,” he told the leaders, including Paris Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois.
Sarkozy said France’s status as a “secular and social republic” was “written in black and white” in its constitution, along with its guiding principle of “laicite,” or secularism.
However, he added that the country’s religions should also participate in national debates and in “creating our cultural identities.” He said it would be a “strange schizophrenia” to preserve France’s religious heritage while insisting religions had “nothing more to say, offer and impart.”