Proposal to secularize the civic calendar prompts controversy.
Debates about the place of Christianity in public life regularly resurface in Europe. Recently, after the Pentecost Monday holiday, the mayor of Grenoble, France, sparked controversy when he argued French society has evolved beyond religious days off. Pointing to the large number of secular people who don’t follow the church calendar and Muslims who celebrate different religious days, Éric Piolle proposed removing Christian holidays from the civic calendar.
The French currently celebrate Easter Monday, Ascension Day, Pentecost Monday, the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, All Saint’s Day, and Christmas. Those days off could be replaced, Piolle said, by days to commemorate key moments in French history.
We asked five evangelical leaders from French-speaking Europe: Should Christians embrace proposals to replace public religious holidays with secular ones?
Pierre-Sovann Chauny, systematic theology professor at the Faculté Jean Calvin, Aix-en-Provence:
No. Removing Christian religious feasts from the civil calendar should be rejected. We need to maintain an awareness of what French history owes to Christianity and should continue to emphasize the public character of the spiritual life of Christians. These holidays also provide Christians with opportunities to bear witness throughout the year to the life, death, resurrection, and reign of Christ. Finally, the existence of these holidays consolidates our religious freedom. Their removal could, on the contrary, be a step toward persecution.
Fabien Fourcasse, pastor of the Evangelical Baptist Church of Amiens:
I’d say no. It’s our tradition. Besides that, the presence of religious holidays on the calendar expresses something of God’s plan for society. …