A worrying bill

Reflections by Paul Cooke, France Mission’s Director

There’s a bill currently going through the French parliament that’s causing considerable concern among evangelicals. Its official title is the “law to strengthen respect for Republican principles”. On 16th February 2021, 347 French MPs voted in favour of the law with 151 voting against. On 12th April, French Senators also voted in favour of the bill and it is now being reviewed by a joint committee of MPs and Senators.

The aim of the law is to curb the influence of Islamic extremism. And, in the wake of atrocities such as the beheading of teacher Samuel Paty last year, that’s obviously a good objective. But, for fear of appearing to target a particular faith, the government has taken an approach that may well make life unnecessarily difficult for evangelical churches.

The government wants to tighten administrative and financial controls on “religious associations”,which is the legal framework under which 95% of evangelical churches are registered (whereas most mosques are registered as “cultural associations”). The planned controls will place a very considerable burden on small and medium-sized churches, with donations of more than €10,000 per year from overseas being closely monitored. The aim is to limit foreign state funding of French mosques, but organisations like FM could well also be affected by the legislation.

Various politicians,including government ministers, have also made factually incorrect statements in the media over recent months suggesting that Republican values are threatened by evangelicals, and not just by Islamic extremists. You can watch a short compilation of these comments, followed by a response from the CNEF (National Council of French Evangelicals) on YouTube (here).

Please pray for the ongoing discussions about the legislation and for the CNEF as they seek to defend the delicate balance between religion and the State in France. Pray for effective measures to curb Islamic extremism without threatening religious freedom for peaceful, law-abiding citizens. And please pray that politicians will see and celebrate the positive contribution being made to French society by more than half a million evangelicals as they follow their Servant King.

For regular updates about the legislation, see this page created by our friends at Impact France.

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Paul Cooke

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