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Secularism, a high school eloquence contest turns into a fiasco

The Ile-de-France region announced, Thursday, June 23, suspending a grant of €10,000 to the Education League following an eloquence competition for high school students during which remarks “contrary to the values ​​of secularism and the Republic” were held.

In this tense political period, it is thus confirmed that secularism is a sensitive subject. The president of the Auvergne Rhônes-Alpes region, Laurent Wauquiez, announced on May 17 the freezing of its subsidies to the city of Grenoble which had just authorized the wearing of burkini in swimming pools. Decision sanctioned since by the administrative judge.

Burkini: the Council of State confirms the ban in the swimming pools of Grenoble

The case of the Île-de-France region, however, looks more like a clumsiness on the part of an educational organization whose republican commitment is inscribed in the genes. On May 16, a test of an eloquence contest is organized at the regional council which subsidized the event. The Paris federation of the League has been responsible for monitoring the preparation of high school students.

Problem, several of the participants that day made remarks totally contrary to secularism, denouncing this principle as an attack on individual freedoms.

The case takes on a political dimension

Anger of the regional councilor, James Chéron, in charge of high schools, present that day, then discomfort at the League. “We had proposed educational tools for teachers who were preparing students, but we did not provide enough support for this work” argues Stéphane Alexandre, general delegate of the Paris federation.

The League made amends and, on June 15, went to the regional council for an explanation. But the next day, articles appeared in Point then Current values, who spread the case in the public square. Faced with the controversy, the national headquarters of the League is forced to split a press release.

“Some of these speeches turned out to be very critical of the laws relating to to secularism and denoting a misunderstanding of the legal framework and the values ​​that carries secularism, admits the organization which proposes to strengthen “the support dimension” of this program. Within the institution, some regret that this affair takes on a political dimension, a few days before the second round of the legislative elections, on June 19.

Serious remarks made by several participants

In the cabinet of Valérie Pécresse, we refute any attempt at instrumentalization and we insist on the long-standing commitment of the president to the defense of secularism. The League would also have sought “to put the dust under the carpet”, comments his entourage. We insist on the very serious content of the remarks made by seven young girls among the nine participants in the eloquence contest. “Secularism is the coffin of women”, or “secularism is a form of dictatorship”thus affirmed that day of the young girls.

Solidly committed in the field, the network of the Ligue de l’enseignement knows very well that part of the youth of Muslim tradition considers coercive secularism vis-à-vis Islam and rejects the law against religious symbols in school. “We may not want to hear these criticisms, but they correspond to a part of the opinion and it is our job to take it from there, comments Stéphane Alexandre. The problem is that the comments made in the competition could have been said by young people at the start of a job, but not at the end. » Currently meeting in congress, the League would have done well without the controversy.


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