France is a secular country, and freedom of religion is a constitutional right. French religious policy is based on the concept of laïcité, a strict separation of Church and State under which public life is kept completely secular. France was historically regarded as the “eldest daughter” of the Roman Catholic Church. The French Revolution saw a radical shift in the status of the Church with the launch of a brutal de-Christianization campaign. After the back and forth of Catholic royal and secular republican governments over the 19th century, laïcité was established with the Jules Ferry laws of the 1880s and the 1905 law on the Separation of the Churches and the State. The French government does not keep statistics on religious adherence, nor on ethnicity or on political affiliation. However, some unofficial survey estimates exist.
Roman Catholicism has been the predominant religion in France for more than a millennium, though it is not as actively practiced today as it once was. A survey by the Catholic newspaper La Croix found that whilst in 1965, 81% of the French declared themselves to be Catholics, in 2009 this proportion was 64%. Moreover, whilst 27% of the French went to Mass once a week or more in 1952, only 4.5% did so in 2006; 15.2% attended Mass at least once a month. The same survey found that Protestants accounted for 3% of the population, an increase from previous surveys, and 5% adhered to other religions, with the remaining 28% stating that they had no religion. Evangelical Christianity may be the fastest growing religion in France.
According to a January 2007 poll by the Catholic World News, only 5% of the French population attended church regularly (or 10% attend church services regularly among the respondents who did identify themselves as Catholics). The poll showed 51% identified as being Catholics, 31% identified as being agnostics or atheists (another poll sets the proportion of atheists equal to 27%), 10% identified as