Dissolution of Academia Christiana Would Violate Several Civil Liberties
A decree dissolving the French association Academia Christiana will be presented in the Council of Ministers in the coming weeks, according to the Minister of the Interior. This response, published in Le Figaro (December 13, 2023), reacts to this announcement.
On Brut, Gérald Darmanin announced on December 10 his plan to dissolve Academia Christiana, a conservative Catholic training institute. At that time, he did not mention any facts justifying this dissolution. The next day, on CNEWS, the Minister of Home Affairs pointed to a single factual element: "This summer they glorified anti-Semitism, with people who considered that Jews were not like other people." According to commentators, Gérald Darmanin may have confused Academia Christiana with Civitas, a political party that allowed hostile remarks about Judaism during its last summer university. Civitas has already been subject to a dissolution decree and has no connection with Academia Christiana.
However, behind such a dissolution announcement, there is a more complex dossier. Gérald Darmanin summarized it as follows: "It is not an association that, in my opinion, matches the values of the Republic." The list of accusations made by the Ministry of Home Affairs against Academia Christiana has leaked to the press. It deserves to be commented on because it shows that the government not only infringes on the freedom of association but also other public freedoms, such as freedom of thought, expression, education, and religion. These freedoms are exercised by everyone and are our common good. They are protected and must continue to be, even when exercised against the values of the Republic. These "values" inspire our laws but do not constitute an official ideology to which one must adhere. Everyone has the right to criticize them freely.
Let us analyze one by one the "worst" facts pointed out by the government against Academia Christiana. Back to summer 2021, a speaker at a summer university allegedly encouraged participants by saying: "Educate your children to free them from republican influence," even at the cost of a "financial sacrifice." In other words, parents were urged to prefer private schools to public which are free of fees, so that their children do not get enrolled in a program entirely designed by the National Education System. This educational freedom is protected by the right of parents to educate their children according to their beliefs. This right is valid even when the convictions in question differ from those of the government, especially regarding sexuality or religion. Educational freedom must therefore legitimately be exercised and promoted.
A second fact highlighted by the Ministry of Home Affairs is supposed to constitute an "incitement to collaboration by paying a tribute to the Vichy regime." A priest was accused, in 2020, of having mentioned, in an Academia Christiana YouTube video, young people going "to the cemetery of Grand Bornand ... piously praying for the militiamen who were executed at the Liberation," urging them not to "get photographed with everyone." The priest is accused of not condemning these young people, even though they pray for "collaborators." However, from a Christian point of view, praying for a deceased person only makes sense if one is not certain that this person is in Heaven. Such a prayer presupposes that these militiamen must be purified of their sins and is the opposite of a "canonization" of these individuals. In any case, such a prayer process is obviously protected by freedom of worship, which is one dimension of freedom of religion.
Two other facts are considered by the Government to give rise to discrimination against women. This involves the publication of an article on modesty and a review of the book "Le Courage de la Paternité"[“the courage of fatherhood”] written by a Dominican Father. The article on modesty is accused of telling women how to dress. However, photos of young women from Academia Christiana show that they are completely free to dress as they wish. The training institute promotes neither uniforms nor burqas. Regarding the book review, it indicates that, in a Christian marriage, the man is the head of the family, and the woman is submissive to him. This statement is based on the Bible, particularly on a passage from the Epistles of Saint Paul. Theologians unanimously agree that such a distinction of roles does not imply inequality between men and women. The promotion of this vision of the family does not incite discrimination and is protected by the freedom of thought and freedom expression.
In Gérald Darmanin’s letter to Academia Christiana, other arguments in favor of the dissolution are listed but appear less serious, and it is therefore unnecessary to dwell on them. Certain arguments are related to simple participants in the activities organized by this association but do not engage in the association itself. Others seem far-fetched. For example, the president of Academia Christiana allegedly posted on LinkedIn a postcard of a Bavarian city where he studied and spent family vacations, and the Government points out that Hitler had a good score in that same city in the 1932 presidential election. This fanciful accusation would be amusing if it did not claim to support a dissolution procedure for an association.
The government's procedure against Academia Christiana should concern all French associations. It demonstrates the fragility of freedom of association and other freedoms exercised by all citizens. It also shows that the government restricts these freedoms to serve political objectives.