France: Letter on the current bill on “Consolidating the Respect of the Principles of the Republic”


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All French Deputies
All French Senators

Brussels, the 25th of January 2021

Copies to:

  • Kishan Manocha, Head, Tolerance and Non-Discrimination Department, OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights
  • Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief
  • Eamon Gilmore, EU Special Representative for Human Rights

Re: The current bill on “Consolidating the Respect of the Principles of the Republic”

Dear Member of the French Parliament,

We write as an informal group of organizations and individuals who are scholars, religious leaders and human rights advocates. We are from many faiths or acting in a secular capacity, representing a high degree of diversity. While there is very little we agree on theologically, or politically, we all agree on the importance of freedom of religion or belief for all faiths and none.

We write to you concerning the bill currently debated at the French Parliament about “Consolidating the Respect of the Principles of the Republic”. France is watched internationally with great expectations on this topic, and sometimes also with great concern due to the content of the law and the surrounding statements by several politicians.

While we believe that France is absolutely entitled to create legislation in order to tackle the problems of terrorism, including Islamist terrorism and radicalization, we believe also that the way to achieve this purpose is not to add further/new restrictions to freedom of religion or belief in the country. During the hearings of January 4th at the National Assembly, several religious leaders have expressed their view that the law proposal would create a climate of general suspicion “against” religions, and is, in its current state, going to greatly increase State control and restrictions on all religious groups.

It’s not even a question of “balance” between security and freedom of religion or belief, as basically, governments should ensure both, but both go shoulder to shoulder and not opposing each other. As said by the OSCE Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights in its 2019 document “Freedom of Religion or Belief and Security Policy Guidance”,

…much of the contemporary discourse on freedom of religion or belief and security calls for a balance between these values or suggests that at least some aspects of this freedom must be sacrificed to achieve security. This discourse contradicts the OSCE’s comprehensive approach to security, which does not frame freedom of religion or belief and security as competing rights, but recognizes them as complementary, interdependent and mutually reinforcing objectives that can and must be advanced together.

That is why we urge you to make sure that the law fulfills its stated purpose: combat terrorism and violence and groups which engage in such activities or advocate the use of violence and hatred. For this you will also have to make sure the law does not create more restrictions and suspicion for the vast majority of religious groups of any nature and creed that are peaceful and not engaged in such activities. We trust that you have the power and willingness to do so.

On the other hand, we believe that the discussed bill is an opportunity to modernize the law and adapt it to France’s existing religious diversity. Any provision that will increase freedom of religion or belief, and will increase also non-discrimination between beliefs and belief communities, will also increase security. France has here an opportunity to reach the highest standards in terms of freedom of religion or belief and become one of the countries that would be the most aligned with international standards as set by OSCE, the UN and the Council of Europe. It’s up to you to take this opportunity and transform the concerns of believers and human rights advocates into legitimate progress.

We strongly and respectfully advise you become acquainted with several guidelines published by the OSCE and the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe: Freedom of Religion or Belief and Security: Policy Guidance (2019), Guidelines on the Legal Personality of Religious or Belief Communities (2014), Guidelines for Review of Legislation pertaining to Religion or Belief (2004).

This bill is a major issue for France, and for the fate of all believers of France, and it is also an issue for the world, as the outcome of your work will be watched and evaluated internationally. Will the law target religions, and increase restrictions on freedom of religion or belief, or will it correctly target terrorists and violent components of the French society? We definitely hope it will be the second option, and we trust that you will hear that call.


ADO  Alevi Philosophy Center Association
ADIP _ ARBP Anatolian Religions and Beliefs Platform
Affirm Human Rights (UK)
All Faiths Network (UK)
Bitter Winter, a daily magazine on religious liberty and human rights
Boat People SOS - Religious Freedom Project
CAPLC - Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la liberté de Conscience Center for Pluralism
Center for Studies on Freedom of Religion Belief and Conscience (LIREC)
Centro Vedico Dharma (Spain)
Christian Heritage Trust
Christian Solidarity Worldwide - CSW
Committee for Religious Freedom in Vietnam
European Baptist Federation
European Federation for Freedom of Belief - FOB
European Interreligious Forum for Religious Freedom (EIFRF)
Fedinsieme (Faiths Together), Italy
Gerard Noodt Foundation for Freedom of Religion or Belief
Human Rights Without Frontiers
International Christian Concern
International Organization to Preserve Human Rights
Minaret Foundation
ORLIR, International Observatory of Religious Liberty of Refugees
Patmos Institute (USA – Cuba)
United Sikhs Australia
United Sikhs Canada
United Sikhs France
United Sikhs UK
Universal Peace Federation in The Netherlands
World Union of Old Believers (Moscow)


Alessandro Amicarelli
European Federation for Freedom or Belief - FOB

Maria d’Arenzo
Full Professor of Ecclesiastical Law
Universita Federico II di Napoli

Eileen Barker FAcSS; FBA; OBE
Professor Emeritus
London School of Economics

Jeremy P. Barker
Director, Middle East Action Team
Religious Freedom Institute

Rev. Mario Félix Lleonart Barroso
General Coordinator
Patmos Institute

Abdelkarim Benothman
Hawthorne Islamic Center

Vasco Fronzoni
Extraordinary Professor
Universita Telematica Pegaso

Shariq Abdul Ghani
Minaret Foundation

Hamid Gharagozloo
International Organization to Preserve Human Rights

Mike Ghouse
Center for Pluralism

Fikret Igret
Yezidi Exil Council of Singar

Greg Mitchell
International Religious Freedom Roundtable

Scott Morgan
Red Eagle Enterprises

Jennifer Obaseki
Affirm Human Rights

The Revd Anthony Peck
General Secretary
European Baptist Federation

Sheikh Ramzy
Oxford Islamic Information Center International

Bernadette Rigal-Cellard
Professeur émérite
Sciences des religions et sociétés
Université Bordeaux Montaigne

SPANISH HINDU FEDERATION (Federacion Hindu de España)

Dr Abdul Basit Sayed
Founder and Chairman
World Humanitarian Drive

Leonid Sevastianov
World Union of Old Believers

Naseer Ahmed Shahid
Ahmadiyya Moslem UK

Shingara Singh Mann
United Sikhs France
Humanitarian Aid (Sikh Aid)
Civil & Human Rights (ICHRA)
Community Empowerment & Education (CEED)

Bachittar Singh Ughrha
Founder and President
Center for defence of human rights
Founder and Vice President
Gurdwara (Sikh Temple) Geneva, Switzerland

Dr. Rabinder Sohil
Founder and Chair
'Oneness' Universal
Secretary General
Sikh Council UK

Nguyen Dinh Thang, PhD
CEO & President

Martin Weightman
All Faith Network

 Download the letter in PDF format