France has a vibrant tradition of freethought, anticlericalism and free expression. The state is robustly secular, the 1958 constitution beginning “France is an indivisible, secular, democratic and social Republic…” But in the region of Alsace and Lorraine, a “blasphemy” law remains on statute.
There are some anomalous exceptions to France’s policy of strict secularism. Notably, the 1905 “Law on the Separation of the Churches and the State” does not completely apply to all French regions and territories. Because the region of Alsace and Lorraine was part of the German Empire during the passage of the 1905 law, members of Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist, and Jewish groups there may choose to allocate a portion of their income tax to their religious group. Local governments may also provide financial support for building religious edifices. In addition, there is still a blasphemy law on statute in the regions of Alsace and Lorraine, as Articles 166 and 167 of the local penal code.
No convictions have been registered under the “blasphemy” law, but secularist activists have campaigned for the anomalous law to be repealed, and in the wake of the 2015 Charlie Hebdo murders there were renewed calls for abolition of the outstanding “blasphemy” law.
Nationally, there are also concerns about prosecutions against “anti-religious remarks” made on the basis of Articles 24 and 32 of the 1881 law on the freedom of the press, though they do not appear to constitute wholesale restrictions on anti-religious expression, they have sometimes enabled prosecutions to be brought on the basis of inciting “hatred”, but with limited success.