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Centers of Excellence

Secularism on the edge: the church & the state in the United States, France & Israel

Project coordinator: Jeffrey Anderson

Total costs of the project: $65.000
Embassy of France support: $5.000

Summary of the Project

Organized by the Program for Jewish Civilization

Co-sponsored by the BMW Center for German and European Studies, Department of  French, Department of Government

“Secularism on the Edge” is an interdisciplinary gathering of political scientists, historians, legal scholars, and sociologists, among others.

The Program for Jewish Civilization at Georgetown University convened fifteen of the world’s leading scholars in the areas of secularism, laïcité, and chiloniyut. These researchers explored the standing of secularism in the United States, France, and Israel.

The purpose of the conference was to gain a deeper understanding into the position of secular governance in these three countries. Each grapples with particular church-state issues, the research and understanding of which we believe is important in the current global environment.

Events included public interviews with two of France’s leading commentators on laïcité, Professor Jean Bauberot and Henri Pena-Ruiz; panels on the relevant questions of church and state in each of the three countries; and a panel on the status of women’s issues in all of these countries as they pertain to secularism.

In the United States, France, and Israel, existing church-state relations are in flux, with wide-ranging ramifications for women, religious minorities, religious moderates, and the religiously unaffiliated. Georgetown University’s Program for Jewish Civilization invites you to three days of public interviews, panels and presentations addressing crucial issues such as: 

  • What exactly is American secularism? French laïcité? Israeli hiloniyut?

  • How have groups such as conservative Evangelicals, Islamists, and ultra-Orthodox Jews challenged the legitimacy of secular states?

  • How have ongoing shifts in church-state relations affected women?

  • Where do religious “nones,” including atheists, find their place in a secular society?

  • What is the secular future in this country and beyond? Is secularism, as its critics allege, an idea whose time has passed?

  •  
  • Participants included:

Dr. Régine Azria, École des hautes études en sciences sociales

Dr. Jean Baubérot, École pratique des hautes études

Dr. Henri Peña-Ruiz, Institut d'études politiques de Paris