“The French Republic is indivisible, secular, democratic and social.” This is the solemn declaration of the first article of the French Constitution, summarizing the four pillars of the Republican spirit.
An indivisible Republic
No individual and no part of the French population can assume the right to exercise sovereignty that belongs to French citizens as a whole. The people exercises its decision-making power through the representatives it has elected or by referendum.
The principle of unity and indivisibility safeguards the consistency of laws, rights and duties across all of metropolitan and overseas France. Furthermore, the Republic recognizes a single official language: French.
A secular Republic
The secular nature of the Republic is at the crossroads of religious freedom and the principle of equality of all citizens before the law.
Everyone is free to believe or not to believe, whatever their opinions or faith may be, and to practice their religion, on the condition that it does not disturb the public order. Secularism guarantees that everyone’s rights are respected; it does not take away religion.
It guarantees the freedom to practice a religion, and also freedom as regards religion. Nobody can be forced to respect religious dogmas or requirements.
It engages the State’s neutrality towards all religions, and in no way their removal from the public arena. It is founded on the separation of religions bodies from the State, and independence involving dialogue.
Secularism is therefore one of our most precious values, the keystone of a harmonious society and cement of a united France.
A democratic Republic
The democratic nature of the Republic implies the respect of fundamental freedoms and the designation of officials by universal (all citizens of age can participate), egalitarian (each voter has one vote) and secret (everyone votes in good conscience, safe from any external pressure) suffrage. Irrespective of their personal history, educational level, wealth or gender, all citizens have the same value in the eyes of the State.
A social Republic
Lastly, the social nature of the Republic stems from its commitment to equality.
“Men are born and remain free and equal in rights,” according to the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789. To ensure that everyone is guaranteed full and total, living and tangible equal rights, the State also works to promote equality of opportunity, by especially supporting the most disadvantaged and vulnerable, and by encouraging social cohesion in the areas of education, housing, employment and health.