We find ourselves, in Europe and in America, after centuries of separation between religion and the state: religion is regarded as a matter of freedom of conscience, concerning the private life of a person, while the state deals with the administration, neutral in relation to the private convictions of citizens, in the public interest. The modern state is built on the premise of a separation: public interest actions originate in secular reasons and people have the unrestricted freedom to promote their religious beliefs, in their private life and in worship places.
Constitutions have judicially confirmed the separation. For example, in theBill of Rights (1791), the well-known part of theConstitution of the United States , the First Amendment states that: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, of prohibiting the free exercise hereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”. At the same time, theConstitution of France (1958), in Article 1, stipulates that: ”La France est une République indivisible, laïque, démocratique et sociale. Elle assure l'égalité devant la loi de tous les citoyens sans distinction d'origine, de race ou de religion. Elle respecte toutes les croyances”, after, in theDeclaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen it was already stated that: ”Nul ne doit être inquiété pour ses opinions, même religieuses, pourvu que leur manifestation ne trouble pas l'ordre public établi par la loi”[^1] , the public force (la force publique) being ”instituée pour l’avantage de tous, et non pour l’utilité particulière de ceux auxquels elle est confiée”[^2] . The examples may, of course, continue.
Meanwhile, a new activism in favour of the separation from religion was added to the classical separation between the state and religion. For instance, Paul Kurtz recently published a sort of manifesto, entitledWhat Is Secular Humanism (2007), going beyond the already established separation: the well-known editor of pragmatic writing argues in favour of removing religion not only from the public life of the state, but also from the people’s individual life projects, which are, by their nature, private. He proposes the vision of a “secular humanism”, which “rejects supernatural accounts of reality; but it seeks to optimise the fullness of human life in a naturalistic universe”[^3] and “holds that ethical values are relative to human experience and need not be derived from theological or metaphysical foundations”[^4] .
I consider this activism to be on a wrong path, and that the classical separation between religion and the state must be questioned.Not only did religion induce a positive moral sense in the actions of the overwhelming majority of people, by operating with the Divinity that divides justice, but, moreover, it can motivate some of the most democratic behaviours, probably the most democratic one Therefore, after considering the relationship between religion and the state from a historical point of view, I will indicate that the separation thesis is already encountering many difficulties, so much so that if, especially in religiously pluralistic societies, the abandonment of secularisation is not realistic, a new solution to the relationship between religion and the state must be found, however. I will try to take the road towards such a solution. I would like to say, from the
outset, that I take up the distinction between the politics-religion relation and the state-church relation[^5] , but I argue that the latter relationship can no longer be understood without considering the former. Religion is not apolitical, and the state cannot remain indifferent to the beliefs of its citizens anymore if it takes itself seriously as an organisation based on the recognition of citizens.