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Organising the faiths: local systems

Historical reasons and people’s desire to hold onto the specific legal characteristics of their locality have led to the maintenance of different local law statutes which continue to coexist alongside the Law of 1905.

 Local law in Alsace-Moselle

The départements of the Lower Rhine, Upper Rhine and Moselle (Alsace-Moselle) became French once again in 1918, after nearly 50 years’ annexation by Germany. The former legislation on faiths, which had remained applicable under the German system, was maintained in force by the Act of 1 June 1924: Law of 18 Germinal year X (1801 Concordat and Organic Articles of the Catholic faith and Protestant faiths) and by Order of 25 May 1844 (Jewish faith). Neither the Act of 1901, nor that of 1905, therefore apply in these three départements and this exception, which was maintained after the Second World War, persists today.

The local law on faiths is characterised by a system of recognised faiths for the Catholic Church, Lutheran and Reformed Protestant churches and the Jewish faith. Organised under public law, they can be funded by the state and local communities and their ministers of worship are paid for by the state. Other denominations are organised in line with registered association status in local law and may be subsidised voluntarily by public authorities.

In terms of education, public authorities are required to organise confessional religious instruction integrated into the curricula of primary, secondary and vocational educational institutions. Parents who so desire can exempt their children from religious education.

 Systems in the overseas territories

In religious matters, several legal systems apply in the various overseas communities. According to the provisions of the Decree of 6 February 1911, the general scheme of the Law of 9 December 1905 applies in Martinique, Guadeloupe and La Réunion.

In Guyana, a Royal Order of 27 August 1828 organises just the Catholic faith. Its ministers are paid for by the département, which further maintains its buildings of worship. Other faiths are managed within the Decree-Law of 16 January 1939 (Mandel Decree).

This same decree-law applies in French Polynesia (Tahiti and Marquesas Islands), Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, Wallis and Futuna and in New Caledonia. In these territories, faiths are formed into “religious missions”, endowed with a management board.

The Decree of 16 January 1939 applies in Mayotte too, yet with some particularities; the Muslim faith, in the majority in this territory, organises its activities within the framework of associations regulated by the Law of 1 July 1901.

For further details, see the Circular of 25 August 2011 (in French) on the regulation of faiths in the overseas territories and the regulation of faiths in the overseas territories, summary table.
See also the article by Anne Fornerod, "Après le droit alsacien-moselan, le droit des cultes guyanais devant le Conseil constitutionnel français", ORELA, July 2017.

D 6 July 2017    AFrançoise Curtit

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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