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Valentine Zuber

The comparative history of secularization in France and in Geneva can shed fresh light on the separation of church and state in France in 1905 and in Geneva in 1907. Similarities in the timing of events and in the laws of separation in these two settings mask sharp differences in how laïcité was understood and how it was interpreted politically. The establishment of laïcité had neither the same causes nor the same political effects in France and Geneva. Nevertheless, as two examples of "total" laïcisation, the French and Genevan separations of church and state raised the same question about religious liberty and its safeguard by the state. Should a state that is "separate from religion" play an active role protecting the liberty of the different denominations in its territory, or should it uphold a prudent and distanced neutrality?