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Historically, French laïcité was the product of a struggle with the Catholic church. At the end of the 19th century, the republic’s battle to wrest classrooms, the army and politics from the hands of the clergy was sometimes violent. Convents and religious schools were shut down by force; thousands of priests fled the country. “We have torn human conscience from the clutches of faith,” declared René Viviani, a Socialist minister, in the National Assembly. This campaign resulted in a law in 1905 to entrench laïcité across France (with the exception of Alsace-Moselle, which enjoys a derogation under the Napoleonic Concordat of 1801).