The hundredth anniversary in half-tone is undoubtedly explained by the dissensions why this law within the government causes.
On 9 December 1905, a law was passed in France separating the church and the state. The state law was based on three principles:
• neutrality of the state,
• freedom of exercise of religion,
• and public powers related to the church.
This law is seen as the backbone of the French principle of "laïcité". The law famously states "The Republic neither recognizes, nor salaries, nor subsidizes any religion".
The law put an end to the funding of all religious groups and declared all religious buildings property of the state and local governments;
Other articles of the law included prohibiting affixing religious signs on public buildings, and laying down that the republic no longer names French archbishops or bishops.
Initially, the Roman Catholics were seriously affected, as the law declared churches property of the state and local governments. One point of friction is that public authorities had to hand over the buildings to religious organizations (associations cultuelles) representing layment, instead of putting them directly under the supervision of the church hierarchy. This caused civil disobedience and even riots by Catholics. The Holy See urged Catholic priests to fight in the name of catholicism. Pope Pius X issued the Vehementer Nos encyclical denouncing the law as contrary to the constitution of the church.
One may see the situation from another angle, namely that this law currently de facto favors traditional French religions, in particular Roman Catholicism, at the expense of religions of more recent expansion in France, such as Islam: while most Catholic churches were built before 1905, and thus are maintained largely at the expense of the government, followers of Islam and other religions have to pay the full price of founding and maintaining religious facilities. This is the reason why certain French politicians, such as President of UMP and current State Interior Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, favour funding other religions.
The 1905 law, however, is often considered politically untouchable. Rivals of Nicolas Sarkozy, such as Jacques Chirac and Dominique de Villepin, current France Prime Minister made a point that no change was foreseen to the law.
Recently, France "reinforced [ its ] legislative arsenal against Islamic terrorism", it always "defended religious freedom" and "fought the unacceptable assimilations between a religion and the use of the armed force" .