The Circle of Free Thought
The National Federation of Free thought
Constitution, secularism and public funding of religions
An international call by personalities has been published for the fiftieth anniversary of the Belgian Center of Secular Action, which was born in 1969. The congress was held in Liège, a traditional fiefdom of Free Thought, then here is “the call from Liège, for a universal secularity”.
Both our associations (CLP/KVD and FNLP) have read about this call in the press and have studied it with interest. French Free Thinkers expressed some surprise when they noticed the presentation of the call was sponsored by Mr. François Hollande, the former president of the French Republic. Belgian Free Thinkers had the same surprise when they understood that one of the distinguished signatories was Mr. Elio di Rupo who was the Prime Minister of the Belgian Monarchy for several years.
One can appreciate the essence of the generous particulars of “the call from Liège” and ask some questions about the main recommendation: “defend the registration [of the principle of secularity] in national Constitutions and international treaties”.
National Constitutions belong to constituent peoples and international treaties to States; these are two bodies that should be considered differently.
It is the issue of constitutions that first challenged us since in both our countries this issue has been recently discussed and has worried us.
In France, secularity has been constitutional since post-war popular conquests and precisely since the 1946 Constitution, the fourth Republic Constitution. But it is precisely in 2012, under the presidency of François Hollande, that the registration of the principle of secularity in the French Constitution showed its limits for lack of political courage to put forward the abrogation of the concordat between the Church and three departments in Alsace and Moselle.
In Belgium, there is no Concordat: there is no need for it! The status of the Catholic Church is an application of the doctrine of the ultramontane accepted by the Constituents. The debate about the registration of the principle of secularity in the Constitution recurs from time to time (last time in 2016). Mr. Elio di Rupo was at the head of the government from 2011 to 2014 but he never included this issue on the agenda.
In both countries, concretely, huge amounts of money are poured on the Roman Church and its works (essentially in education) and there is a de facto acknowledgement of the supremacy of this religion.
We ask a friendly question to the signatories of the Call from Liège (http://50ans.laicite.be/):In these troubled times can one speak of secularity in Constitutions without setting the precondition of the abrogation of Concordats whether they are inherited from old dictatorships or promoted recently at the end of the twentieth century through the Pope Wojtyla‘s campaign. (jean-Paul II)
Secularity, as the protection of absolute freedom of conscience, cannot flourish if there is a de-facto acknowledgement or dominant religion through specific agreements.
Mons 9 November 2019