1 APRIL 1905, Page 1

The debate on the Bill for the separation of Church

and State in France has commenced, but will not reach the crucial points for some time. All parties are aware that the Bill as a Bill will be carried, the majority against further delay having been great; but the clerics still hope for victory upon details. The most important of these are the ownership of ecclesiastical buildings, and the right of free speech in the pulpit on all questions. The framers of the Bill wish the ownership of churches and cathedrals to pass to the State, which may then turn them, if it pleases, into museums or places of popular recreation. This offends the public feeling of classes not clerical, and they propose that the buildings shall belong either to the clergy, or, if that is too contrary to the spirit of the "reform," to the communes in which they stand, and which, it is hoped, will not permit their desecration. The compromise probably will be that the cathedrals will pass to the State, which is almost certain not to interfere with their use, and the churches to the communes, subject to some appeal to the Minister of the Interior. The right of free speech, say on an Education Bill, will probably be denied. It would be granted in any other country, subject, of course, to the civil law of libel ; but the French will consider that the Church is an Association, and that every Association must be liable to control from the State, which in all things is to be supreme.