.- A French cabinet member announced that the government will monitor certain groups for "religious pathology," including a traditionalist Catholic organization, and will shut them down if it is discovered.
“The objective is to identify when it's suitable to intervene to treat what has become a religious pathology,” Interior Minister Manuel Valls told a conference on the official policy of secularism, according to Reuters.
“The aim is not to combat opinions by force, but to detect and understand when an opinion turns into a potentially violent and criminal excess,” he said at the Dec. 11 conference.
Valls' remarks come in the wake of President Francois Hollande's announcement Dec. 9 that he would create the “National Observatory of Secularism” to promote France’s policy and to “formulate propositions for the transmission of 'public morality,' giving it a dignified place in schools.”
Hollande's announcement of the observatory was made on the anniversary of the adoption of a law in 1905 that established secularism as state policy in France. It was accompanied by the decision to honor the sociologist Emile Poulat, who helped to “promote secularism as an essential value of our living-together.”
Secularism (laïcité in French) has received a boost from Hollande's Socialist government, which believes it was weakened under former President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Valls said that the government would be monitoring violence among religious radicals, including Salafist Muslims and Civitas, an organization of lay Catholics which is associated with the Society of Saint Pius X.
He said that Civitas is observed because its political protests flirt with “the limits of legality … All excesses are being minutely registered in case we have to consider dissolving it and defending this before a judge.”
Civitas is “a political movement inspired by natural law and the social doctrine of the Church … engaged in the establishment of the social Kingship of Christ” throughout the world, and in France in particular. It demonstrates against secularism and policies which denigrate Christianity.
According to Reuters, Valls offered radicals Islamists, traditionalist Catholics, and ultra-orthodox Jews “who want to live separately from the modern world” as examples of religious extremists.
Under the secularist policy, the government will identify “sects” and disband faith-based groups it deems to suffer from “religious pathology.”
On Oct. 31 of this year, the Tunisian imam Muhammad Hammami was expelled from France because he defended violence against women and made anti-Semitic speeches at his Parisian mosque.
“We decided to be uncompromising against all those who utter hate speech against the Republic and our values,” Valls said at the time.
In March 2012, an al-Qaeda supporter murdered three soldiers and four Jews in Toulouse, which Valls said at the conference “showed how quickly religiously radicalized people could turn to force.”
Secularism in France discourages the display of religion in the public square. In 2004, Muslim women were barred from wearing hijabs in public schools.
Education minister Vincent Peillon told the Dec. 11 conference that the classes on secular morality would emphasize the French secularist values of equality and fraternity.
In an interview with Le Journal du Dimanche, he said that secular morality is to “understand what is right and to distinguish good from evil.”
“Secularism is not about simple tolerance … it is a set of values that we have to share.”