in the Assembly, the actors of the French revive the debates on the law of 1905

” Madame President ! » The effect of this announcement is immediate: the hubbub subsides, and the benches of the red hemicycle are silent. Yaël Braun-Pivet enters a black suit from which a bright pink blouse escapes. Today, as usual, she will chair the debates of the National Assembly. Yes, but here it is: this Wednesday morning’s Assembly is a bit special, since those who make it up are named Aristide Briand, Father Gayraud, Jean Jaurès, Maurice Allard, the Count of Baudry d’Asson, or even Hélène Sée, the first female parliamentary journalist.

The rest of the seats are occupied by 300 middle and high school students, who have come from all over Île-de-France to attend a re-enactment, by actors from the Comédie-Française, of the debates around the 1905 law on the separation of the Churches. and the state. One moment “transhistorical”affirms the president, before returning to her own role and declaring the meeting open.

Pass of arms around the proposal of Aristide Briand

Marcel Bozonnet was already on the podium, putting his deep voice and surgical diction at the service of Abbé Gayraud. “It is the war that you want to declare on us, it is the war that you bring us, because you offend our consciences, because you violate them”, he insists in response to the bill brought by the young Aristide Briand. Brilliantly interpreted by Hervé Briaux, affirms to him loud and clear, under boos and protests, that “if the Church cannot do without State subsidies, it is because the Church is already dead”.

Facing him, part of the right and representatives of the Church, but also a certain Maurice Allard, a furiously anti-clerical lawyer and journalist, supported by the charismatic Pierre Hancisse. ” I ask (at the Assembly) to adopt as a postulate what has been adopted for more than thirty years by the true Republican Party: to decide that the Church, political danger and social danger, must be fought in any way! »he exclaimed, under the vehement protests of Gayraud and Baudry d’Asson.

Marriage of politics and theater

For an hour, the actors stand up, rebel, and skilfully serve the skilfully chosen excerpts from these deliberations, punctuated with protrusions that have become historic. Each of their interventions is preceded by a historical introduction by Catherine Salviat, honorary member of the Comédie-Française, who plays the role of Hélène Sée. A welcome context, which gives pride of place to Aristide Briand, whose praise is “skill and moderation”.

In the ranks of the hemicycle, the experience seems to seduce high school students, and sometimes disconcert the youngest, who all then participate in a debate around the theme of secularism, led by Yaël Braun-Pivet. A role that befits the President of the Assembly, who manages to get the students to talk to each other. And while their questions and differences mingle, it appears how much secularism, almost a hundred and twenty years later, remains a thorny subject.


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