By Meg Jalsevac

PARIS, September 5, 2007 ( – Newly elected French President Nicholas Sarkozy did not shy away from tackling controversial issues in his campaign and he has, once again, engaged a politically hot topic in a nation previously renowned for its secularism. In a letter written by Sarkozy and publicized yesterday, he addressed the teachers of France, calling on them to take part in a “renaissance” and to reflect on the huge responsibility placed in their hands – the responsibility to “guide and to protect the spirit and the sensibilities that are not yet completely formed, that have not yet attained maturity, which are searching, which are still fragile and vulnerable.”

Sarkozy explained that such a national rebirth would only be possible through a reform of the French education system. Sarkozy clarified that such a reform must include “rewarding the good, punishing the faults, cultivating an admiration of that which is good, just, beautiful, great, true and profound and [cultivating] a detestation of that which is bad, unjust, ugly, insignificant, untrue, superficial and mediocre. That is how a teacher renders his service to a child in his care.”

In his letter, Sarkozy bucked the secularist establishment that has long mandated a total rejection of religion presence in any French schools or curricula. “I am convinced that we should not leave the issue of religion at the school door.” He cautioned that he was not advocating for proselytizing in schools or teaching solely “within the framework of a theological approach.”

Rather, Sarkozy explained, “The spiritual and the sacred always accompany human experiences. They are the source of all civilization. One can open up [more] easily to others and one can dialogue more easily with people of other religions when one understands their religion.”

French secularist forces argue that teaching religion or allowing the presence of religion in any form in educational facilities only serves to foster confrontation and animosity.

Sarkozy continued in his letter to remind educators that they must instill the virtue of patriotism in their young charges so that they will grow to be responsible citizens of France, of Europe and of the world. He also called on educators to work to inspire an appreciation for culture in France’s young people.

Sarkozy drew his letter to a conclusion, echoing a teaching of the Catholic Church in this regard. He said, “Parents, vous êtes les premiers des éducateurs.” Translated, it means “Parents, you are the primary educators.” Sarkozy encouraged parents to be intimately involved in the education of their children. Alluding to the many difficulties that parents of today face in an age of broken homes, expensive education and high unemployment rates. Sarkozy promised governmental effort to make education possible for all young French citizens.

Sarkozy concluded his letter, “The time for a new beginning has come. It is to this new beginning that I invite you. We will navigate it together. We are already slow [in beginning].”

As previously reported by, this is not the first time that the present president has called for a more public acceptance of religion in France. In 2006, Sarkozy, then acting as the French interior minister, called for France to repudiate its anti-religious prejudice and look again at a positive relationship between Church and state.

In a book-length interview entitled La République, les religions, l’espérance [The Republic, the Religions, and Hope], Sarkozy recalls critically “the preceding generations” that “scorned, despised, and ridiculed priests and friars.”

Sarkozy also previously called for permission for religious organizations to take advantage of state funding for charitable work. He criticizes those who “think it is natural for the state to finance a soccer field, a library, a theatre, a childcare center; but whenever it is a matter of the needs of a place of worship, the state should not spend so much as a penny.”

All too often, election candidates employ strong political platforms during campaigns that then discreetly morph into watered down versions of a previous promise to constituents. So far, newly elected French President Nicholas Sarkozy is staying true to his campaign promises to “give the place of honor back to the nation and national identity [of France].”

See the entire untranslated Sarkozy letter at:

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