Macron announces the end of the state of emergency, but faith groups become more vulnerable as government gains power to investigate hate speech.
France has a new anti-terror law that could affect faith groups.
President Emmanuel Macron signed the law on 30 October through whicih authorities can now close places of worship for six months if “there is dissemination of theories and ideas, or activities (…) that lead to the comission of terrorist acts or a defence of those actions”.
The parliament had passed the text overwhelmingly. It also strengthens powers of police and officials to search property or individuals, including railway stations and airports. Officials are now also able to confined suspects of terrorism to their home towns.
With his law, France puts an end to the temporary state of emergency under which the country had lived since November 2015, when terrorists killed 130 people in Paris. It had been prorrogated several times, but definitely ended on November 1, 2017.
The law will “ensure the full security of our citizens”, Macron said, but French civil rights organisations said the new law could erode fundamental freedoms. Nevertheless, polls suggest the new law has a broad social support.
EVANGELICALS: “ANY RESTRICTION WOULD EMPOVERISH THE NATION”
Christians in the country have expressed their concern over the implications this and other conter-terrorism initiaties could in relation to the religious liberties for faith communities and the religious freedom of individuals.
“Any restriction of freedom of worship, conscience, or speech would impoverish the nation spiritually and intellectually and directly implicate evangelical Christians who publicly testify to their faith”, Thierry Le Gall, Director of Pastoral Services to Members of Parliament of the National Council of Evangelicals in France (CNEF) told Evangelical Focus in June.
In the interview after Macron was elected President, Le Gall religious freedom for church members and Christian communities “is an important point of vigilance on which we are working with the Presidency of the Republic and the Parliament”.
The body representing most evangelical Christians in France later also called Christians to “resolutely take part in the collective debate” in all areas of society with a “prophetic voice”. This includes, “to have the courage of truth and strive first to discern what is good, and then dare to expose our convictions peacefully and firmly.”
Among the top priorities of the CNEF is to promote freedom of speech in a context in which the threats of radical Islam is affecting the rights of Christians and other faith groups.