General Alliance against Racism and for Respect for French and Christian Identity

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General Alliance against Racism and for Respect for French and Christian Identity (French: Alliance générale contre le racisme et pour le respect de l'identité française et chrétienne, AGRIF) is a French organization tied to the far right and Catholic integrism that fights against speech it considers to violate French hate speech laws by being hateful towards Christians or the French people. Recognized as an anti racism organization by the French court system, the organization has brought several cases before court and won a few cases in the Court of Cassation in the 1990s, but has had little legal success more recently.

Background[edit]

A change to the Law on the Freedom of the Press of 29 July 1881 in 1972 outlawed hate speech and gave anti-racist organizations the right to bring charges in such cases.[1] The provision, known as Loi Pleven, was generally understood to protect vulnerable minorities and all cases brought before the Court of Cassation (France) before 1993 involving minorities, but the law was written in race neutral language.[2] Following electoral successes for Jean Marie Le Pen and Front National (FN), AGRIF was started by a member of the European Paliament for FN, Bernard Antony, in 1984 to fight against what the organization referred to as anti-French and anti-Christian racism.[3][4] Antony was a leader for the traditionalist Catholic and integrist fraction of FN.[5][6] He later left the party and ran unsuccessfully for Party of France in 2009.[7]

Court cases[edit]

After a legal waiting period after establishment of five years, AGRIF brought a case for recognition as an anti-racism organization for court in 1989. A tribunal court in Paris initially refused to accept the organization's legal standing as it didn't consider it a legitimate anti-racism organization, but this decision was overturned by the appellate court of Paris and in 1991 the Court of Cassation recognized AGRIF as having legal standing as an anti-racism organization, stressing the neutral language of the hate speech regulation that the court found did not exclude non-majority groups like French people and Christians from being possible subjects of punishable racism.[8]

AGRIF later sued writer Marek Halter and the Le Figaro for defamation against Catholics for an assertion in the newspaper by Halter that the Catholic churches in Eastern Europe were "archaic, xenophobic, often racist and anti-semitic."[9][10] The appellate court of Paris acquitted Halter and Le Figaro on the basis that the statement only referred to some Catholic churches at a certain place and time and did not refer to Catholicism itself. The case came for the Court of Cassation in 1993. AGRIF referred to a 1991 Court of Cassation decision where the court had found that accusations that American Jews exploited Holocaust for their own interest constituted hate speech against Jews even if the statement only referred to a sub-group of Jews, and argued that this also meant that statements that only targeted part of the Catholic community could constitute hate speech. The Court of Cassation, citing both its 1991 decision on AGRIF and its 1991 decision on American Jews, ruled that Halter's statement about the Eastern Churches targeted Christians in Eastern Europe in a way that violated the hate speech provision. After a retrial at the appelate court of Orleans where Halter and Le Figaro were found guilty of defamation of Catholics, the Court of Cassation upheld the conviction in 1995.[11][10]

In the mid-1990s, AGRIF also got the support of the Court of Cassation in three other cases of alleged anti-Catholic hate speech, including one case against Charlie Hebdo.[12]

After that time however, the Court of Cassation would mostly rule against AGRIF. Legal experts attribute this to a legal reform that made it easier to appeal decision to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) which more strongly tended to rule in favor of free speech,[13] and did not typically interpret hate speech law to protect majority groups.[14] In the 2006 Giniewski v. France case, the ECHR in a chamber judgement ruled that a civil case decision by the Orléans Court of Appeal upheld by the Court of Cassation where Paul Giniewski had been obligated to pay one Franc to AGRIF as damage for implying Veritatis splendor could be linked to the Holocaust violated Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.[15]

The organization lost a case in a tribunal court in Avignon against Collection Lambert where AGRIF had demanded that Lambert removed a print version of the photograph Piss Christ as well as an internet version. AGRIF was instead ordered to pay Lambert 8000 euros for filing a prejudiced lawsuit. The poster had been vandalized by unknown persons before the case was decided.[16][17]

In 2016, a Paris tribunal court acquitted Femen on accusations of causing harm against Christians after they interrupted a demonstration against same-sex marriage with slogans saying "Fuck Church" among other things.[18]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bleich (2018), p.55
  2. ^ Bleich (2018), p.55
  3. ^ Bleich (2018), p.71
  4. ^ Jean-Yves Camus and Nicolas Lebourg (2017) Far-Right Politics in Europe, p. 165
  5. ^ Hugo Frey (2014) Nationalism and the Cinema in France: Political Mythologies and Film Events p. 212
  6. ^ Peter Davies (1999) The National Front in France: Ideology, Discourse and Power p. 29
  7. ^ Frédérique Schneider (21 September 2017) Sept dates qui ont marqué le Front national La Croix
  8. ^ Bleich (2018), pp.71–72
  9. ^ Bleich (2018), pp.72–73 (alternatively, as a single article, pp. 20–21)
  10. ^ a b Yoram Dinstein Israel Yearbook on Human Rights: 1995 p. 408
  11. ^ Bleich (2018), pp.72–73
  12. ^ Bleich (2018), p.73
  13. ^ Bleich (2018), pp.74–75
  14. ^ Bleich (2018), p.76
  15. ^ Press Release 31 January 206 CHAMBER JUDGMENT - GINIEWSKI v. FRANCE Council of Europe.
  16. ^ Piss Christ: la justice déboute une association catholique L´Express
  17. ^ Elizabeth Pineau et al (18 April 2011) Vandalism and threats greet "Piss Christ" in France Reuters
  18. ^ L’Agrif perd son procès contre les Femen Le Croix

Sources[edit]

Bleich, Erik (January 2018), "Historical institutionalism and Judicial decision-making. ideas, institutions, and actors in French High court Hate speech rulings" (PDF), World Politics, 70 (1): 53–85, doi:10.1017/s0043887117000272  (subscription required)