Laïcité: separation of church and state
This picture shows the press room of the European Human Rights Court in Strasbourg, France. The logo in the middle depicts a sketch of the building’s architecture. You can see from the rest of the picture that the building design, materials, and color scheme is very modern and simplistic.
Looking at other court buildings, like the Supreme Court building as the most familiar example, it is obvious that the imagery and design of such buildings has changed. The Supreme Court building depicts biblical imagery like Moses and the Ten Commandments, as well as imagery of Justinian, Muhammad, Charlemagne, John of England, Louis IX of France, Hugo Grotius, Sir William Blackstone, John Marshall, Napoleon, and other famous lawgivers (according to Wikipedia).
As we were sitting in the human rights court, I thought it was interesting that there is no attempt to appeal to imagery to represent ideals like law and justice that the Court upholds. It seems to me that this must have started with Laïcité. Before the separation of church and state, court buildings would have been heavily decorated with appeals to religious symbols and values. Religious symbols served as objective images of biblical morality and virtue. As we’ve distanced ourselves from national religious affiliation, we’ve also come farther away from an objective way to measure right from wrong, guilty from innocent, etc. This isn’t necessarily all good or all bad, but it is a change.