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Secularism in France

France's banning of religious symbols in state schools is incomprehensible to many Europeans. But "laïcité" - French-style secularism - is an ideology, defining what it means to be French

By Tim King   March 2004

In December last year I gave the children in my local primary school, deep in rural France, a taste of an English Christmas. While, with typically French good manners, they gazed in awe at the snow scene on the iced cake, I explained to them that, originally, mince pies were bigger and were made in the shape of the manger, you know, the manger where the baby Jesus was laid… at which point the teacher came rushing up shaking her finger: “No mention of religion in a state school,” she said, sternly. Not even at Christmas.

Later that month, and…

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