Controversy at school: yes, absences for religious holidays are authorized by law

We don’t always know, but the law provides for it. While a controversy erupted after police officers asked the heads of Toulouse schools to tell them the number of absent students on the day of Eid-el-Fitr, the feast which marked the end of Ramadan in April, without the approval of the rectoratethese absences could however well be justified from a legal point of view.

Since a law of March 15, 2004 on secularism at schoolwhich regulates in particular the wearing of religious symbols in schools, it is planned that pupils of a denomination other than Catholic or Protestant may be granted exceptional leave of absence for certain religious holidays.

Indeed, the circular of May 15, 2004 taken to allow the application of the law indicates that “authorizations of absence must be able to be granted to the pupils for the major religious holidays which do not coincide with a day off and whose dates are recalled (…) in the Official Bulletin of National Education. (…) The school and university institution, for its part, must take the necessary measures to that no major examination or test are organized on the day of these major religious holidays. »

Only “requests for systematic or prolonged absence must be refused when they are incompatible with the organization of schooling”, specifies the text of application. According to the Council of State, which had to decide the question in 1995, this therefore covers the impossibility of requesting an absence during sports on several occasions. due to fastingor to be absent on a recurring basis on Saturday mornings for religious reasons.

Up to three relevant holidays per cult

Five denominations are concerned according to the list published in the Official Bulletin by National Education and the Ministry of Public Service: these are the Armenian, Buddhist, Jewish, muslim and Orthodox. For each of them, one to three holidays can give rise to an exceptional leave of absence for pupils.

These are the feast of the Nativity, the feast of Saints Vartanants and the Commemoration of April 24 among Armenians, the feast of Vesak for Buddhists, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah (two days) and Yom Kippur. among the jewsEid-el-Adha, Mawlid and Eid-el-Fitr for muslimsand finally Theophany, Great Good Friday and Ascension among the Orthodox.

The dates of Muslim and Buddhist holidays being fixed to within one day, leave of absence can be granted with a lag of one day more or less, specify the texts in force.

The Paris Academy has notably published on his website the list of parties for the 2022-2023 school year with the dates set. Contacted, the Minister of National Education confirmed to Le Parisien that this applied in the same way throughout the national territory. Catholic and Protestant holidays (Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, etc.) are not mentioned in this list since they are traditionally non-working as “legal holidays”, public holidays.

A measure that also exists in the public service

Civil servants are also concerned by this right to exceptional leave for a religious holiday. The list of holidays that may give rise to an exceptional absence is the same as that for pupils and this is not new, since the reference text dates from 1967 ! Unknown, it provides that the leave will be granted to State agents “insofar as their absence remains compatible with the normal functioning of the service”.

A circular dated February 10, 2012 from the Ministry of Public Service reminded ministries, state secretaries and prefectures of this provision. It is possible to check on the list of feasts concerned by denomination.

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