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Bill against “separatism”: a liberticidal text for associations?

                In France, the senators began Tuesday the examination of the bill "reinforcing the republican principles".  Article 6, which imposes a "republican engagement contract" on associations, is particularly criticized by defenders of rights.    
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                                    <p>The senators began, Tuesday, March 30, the examination of the bill "reinforcing the respect for the principles of the Republic", which aims to fight radical Islamism in France.   

The text provides for a set of measures to guarantee the neutrality of the public service, better transparency of religions and their funding, control of home education or even the fight against virginity certificates or polygamy.

In the context of the fight against separatist ideologies, the government wishes in particular a reinforced control of associations, the granting of public subsidies of which would be conditional on compliance with a republican contract of engagement. The text provides that any signatory association which contravenes the principles of the Republic should then reimburse the sums paid by the State.

“Our objective is to ensure that not one euro of public money goes to finance enemies of the Republic”, explained Marlène Schiappa, Minister Delegate to the Minister of the Interior, in charge of Citizenship, the February 5.

Since then, while the text was adopted by the National Assembly, many organizations have stepped up to denounce a “liberticidal” law which creates a climate of mistrust over the entire French associative milieu.

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“A far too broad interpretation”

The “republican contract of engagement” appears in article 6 of the bill presented to the Senate. It stipulates that associations must undertake to respect “the principles of freedom, equality, fraternity and respect for the dignity of the human person, as well as to respect public order, the minimum requirements of life. in society and the fundamental symbols of the Republic “.

In the Senate, dominated by the right, deputies wish to add to this definition the commitment “not to question the secular character of the Republic”.

The government assures us that this contract, which has been the subject of “wide consultations” with associations and several amendments, only aims to fight against abuses and poses no risk for the vast majority of associations. Defenders of rights point to an increased risk for associative freedom.

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“Under international law, the French authorities cannot adopt discriminatory measures targeting people because of their religious affiliation”, explains Katia Roux, liberties advocate at Amnesty International France. “Some of the principles included in this contract, such as ‘respect for public order’, are problematic because they leave room for an overly broad interpretation. The European Court of Human Rights has also repeatedly stressed that freedom of expression covered disturbing, offensive and shocking forms of expression. As such, making public grants to associations conditional on respect for the fundamental symbols of the Republic constitutes an illegal restriction of the right to freedom of expression. ”

Concerns on the ground

Among the players in the field, the criteria of the contract give rise to many fears and even frank opposition. Some environmental movements consider that the commitment to “respect public order” goes against their actions of civil disobedience. This concern is all the greater since another article of the bill, on the 7th, provides that the “Republican contract of engagement” becomes a criterion for awarding approval, the precious sesame which offers recognition to associations by the State as well as various advantages, including access to subsidies or tax reductions.

“We have been working for the general interest for 50 years but this text puts a knife to our throats” denounces Gabriel Mazzolini, responsible for citizen actions at Friends of the Earth. “Civil disobedience is useful for democracy and we cannot rely solely on legal proceedings to make our voices heard. If the Paris airport extension was ultimately deemed ‘obsolete’ and abandoned by the government, it is This is thanks in particular to our civic actions. But tomorrow this ambiguous text could be used to cost us our approval and our subsidies, as long as we do not fit into its boxes “.

While the government insists on the will to fight, above all, against radical Islamism, several religious representatives have also stepped up to denounce a measure that would infringe on their practice. “By its internal logic, whatever the intentions, this bill risks undermining the fundamental freedoms that are the freedom of worship, of association, of education, and even of the abused freedom of opinion. by a police of thought which is settling more and more in the common space “, underlined Mgr Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, president of the Conference of the bishops of France, François Clavairoly, president of the Protestant Federation of France, and Emmanuel Adamakis, president of the Assembly of Orthodox Bishops of France, in a common forum, made public on March 10.

>> See also: Home school, a dangerous separatism?

Contested utility

In addition to fears about the potentially liberticidal nature of the Republican engagement contract, some wonder about the usefulness of such a measure when an agreement already exists to set the framework of obligations between the government, elected officials and officials. associations. “The 2014 Reciprocal Commitment Charter already provides for a commitment by associations to respect the principles of the Republic, so why impose new constraints today?” Asks Katia Roux.

“There are already so-called secularism charters sometimes taken by regions and municipalities, but they do not have the force of law. Some have also been challenged in court,” says Marlène Schiappa, judging that this text comes in support of elected officials and mayors who “show courage to fight against radical Islamism”.

In a new opinion published on March 25, the National Human Rights Commission (CNCDH) considers that the “unilateral” character of this contract, based solely on constraints, “breaks with the climate of confidence necessary for the development of the partnership provided for “by the 2014 charter.

The CNCDH, Amnesty International France and several associations, including Friends of the Earth, are calling for the withdrawal of article 6.

Examined under the accelerated procedure in the Senate, the bill against “separatism” should be approved at the end of the debates in two weeks.

A decree in the Council of State will then determine the exact content of the Republican engagement contract, as well as the conditions for the reimbursement of subsidies in the event of non-compliance with the rules.

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Source site www.france24.com

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