State, Religion and Citizenship

Term: Spring 2012

Subject Code: GSOC

Course Number: 6344

In this class we shall look at two entirely different democratic societies, one in which the State remained weak, decentralised and dominated during centuries by a Protestant Establishment, the other being, to the contrary, a strong institution moulding its nation, building a public sphere excluding violently the Church, cutting its citizens from their collective identity. In the US, the State is separated from the Churches because they want to protect themselves from it; in France, the State is also separated from the various Churches but for another reason, the State is willing to protect itself from the strong and unique Church. In both societies, there is a « wall of separation » but in the US, it exists only, until 1940, at the federal level whereas in France, it was imposed since the French Revolution. Then, in the US, there was no « war » between the weak State and the Churches whereas in France, the war was almost permanent until recently. Pluralist or unified visions of the nation explain those differences.

We shall study different periods during both histories, starting with both Revolutions and looking at their similar but also contrasted paths. In both societies, we will look at the relations between the State, the Protestants, the Catholics and the Jews from the XIX th century up to nowadays; we will study the process of secularization that occurs in both countries, the dechristinianization of the nation, in France, in 1905, and in the US during the 1960 with the end of the Bible Reading, the prayer, the released time and so on. We shall look also at the contemporary muslum issue in France, the veil and the burqua being forbidden from the public sphere and study, comparativly the multiculturalist american society open to religious identity within the public sphere. We shall ask why religions remained so strong and legitimate, even nowadays, in the US while they have almost vanished in France. We will also raised more general issues related to the questions of nationalism, patriotism and religious faiths in both societies.

We shall use archives, secondary literature but also crucial Supreme Court decisions and administrative court jurisprudence. 

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