Source: BBC News
On December 18, 2003 the BBC News posted excerpts from French President Jacques Chirac's speech supporting a law banning "conspicious" religious symbols from public school classrooms. Chirac said, "The debate on the principle of secularism goes to the very heart of our conscience. It concerns our national cohesion, our ability to live together, our ability to unite on what is essential...All of France's children, whatever their history, whatever their origin, whatever their beliefs, are the daughters and sons of the republic. They have to be recognised as such, in law but above all in reality...We shall also do so by bringing to life the principle of secularism, which is a pillar of our constitution. It expresses our wish to live together in respect, dialogue and tolerance. Secularism guarantees the freedom of conscience. It protects the freedom to believe or not to believe...Religious freedom, which our country respects and protects, must not be abused. It must not call general rules into question. It must not infringe the freedom of belief of others."