Evangelical Christians in France have called for prayer as a controversial ‘republican principles’ bill has reached the Senate.
The bill, called The Law to Uphold Republican Principles, was adopted by the French National Assembly on 16 February, by 347 votes to 151.
The proposals, which are due to be considered by the French Senate after this edition of ET has gone to print, could harm the evangelical cause in the country.
Initially, the intention of the planned new law was to tackle Islamic extremism, but the scope of the bill has become so broad that it may also target evangelicals.
Under the draft new law, the French government would be given new powers to tackle religious groups that are perceived to challenge the liberal principles of the French Republic.
Measures include giving government officials the power to monitor sermons to see whether they contain any ‘hate speech’.
Heavy administrative and financial burdens will be placed on religious groups, including churches. Small and medium sized churches will be worst hit.
Greater controls will be placed on funding from abroad, hitting evangelical churches that rely on overseas support.
Home-schooling for religious reasons will not be allowed, and other home-schooling parents will have to get permission from the state.
Pastor E. M. Hicham, of Carcassonne Evangelical Church in France, writes about this legislation in more detail in this edition of ET (see p.24).
He says, ‘Evangelical Christians were cited as supposed sources of “extremism” and “radicalisation,” “resistant” to the progressive philosophy advocated by the authorities.’
In Christianity Today (CT), François Clavairoly, president of the Protestant Federation of France (PFF), warned that ‘hundreds’ of churches risk being brought within scope of this law, as do Christian parents seeking to home-school their children.
He told CT, ‘This is the first time as president of the PFF that I find myself in the position of defending freedom of worship. I never imagined that in my own country something like this could happen.’