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Jean-Paul Willaime

Strongly marked by the weight of the past, the French approach to State-Religion-Society relations has distinct qualities, and especially a strong confrontational and emotional dimension. This essay address the evolution of these relations and their tensions by focusing on three subjects that make manifest the relationship between politics and religion in important ways, namely, schools, sects, and Islam. The arena of the school is especially significant in three respects: the link between public and private schools; the question of what should be taught about religion, and the display of religious expression by students. The essay considers these matters within the context of wider transformations in religion (secularization) and politics (disenchantment and changes in the state's role in society). It concludes by situating recent developments in the context of globalization and especially Europeanization.