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Christians in France worry ‘Anti-separatism bill’ would restrict their freedom to worship

Christians in France are warning a bill passed in the Senate could see religious freedom restricted in the country.

Commonly referred to as the "Anti-separatism law", the legislation was proposed by President Emmanuel Macron last year following a terrorist attack in Paris.

The bill seeks to fight radical Islamism by controlling the content being taught in mosques, putting tighter restrictions on foreign funding and homeschooling.

The government argues the bill will uphold republican values such as secularism.

"This legislation is not legislation against religions, nor against the Muslim religion in particular. It is a law of emancipation in the face of religious fanaticism," said Prime Minister Jean Castex in December.

But many Christians in the country fear it will also affect their freedom to worship.

Speaking to Premier, Deborah Prisk, a missionary who has worked in France for 15 years, said monitoring of sermons and stricter funding controls are among the main areas of concern.

“The proposed law does have much more severe sanctions on both religious organisations, which can be shut down, and also pastors individually...We fear that upholding a strong biblical model, therefore, of family, sexuality, gender is something that will also be closely monitored.”

Places of worship will also be required to declare any non-French donation of over €10,000 in a bid to reduce foreign influence.

“[The law] will mean that those gifts that come have to be declared to the state and have to have this independent financial control on it which is just very costly,” Prisk said. “It costs about €6,000 for a church to have these accounts prepared and submitted. If you're looking at a church that has a budget of say, €100,000 a year to have these controls in these accounts, it is actually a massive thing. We fear that it will hinder small churches, and we fear it will hinder new church plants,” she continued.

The proposed law is currently being debated by a joint committee to finalise details, but a final draft of the law is expected in the summer.

“Pray that religious freedom is maintained so that the gospel of Jesus can be proclaimed. And that even if the law goes through in this current form, or even in a tighter form, that Christians in France would nonetheless be bold in proclaiming this good news about Jesus… and wherever the outcome of this law resides, we don't give way to fear and that we don't start to develop a kind of persecuted minority mindset, but we use what we have for God's glory,” Prisk concluded.

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