French secularism, in French, laïcité (pronounced [la.isiˈte]) is a concept denoting the absence of religious involvement in government affairs as well as absence of government involvement in religious affairs. French secularism has a long history but the current regime is based on the 1905 French law on the Separation of the Churches and the State. During the twentieth century, it evolved to mean equal treatment of all religions, although a more restrictive interpretation of the term has developed since 2004. Critics do not consider it neutral but hostile to religion, whereas since World War II, some have seen the evolution of a "positive" laïcité which manages competing pluralities rather than serving as secular alternative to religion. Dictionaries ordinarily translate laïcité as secularity or secularism (the latter being the political system), although it is sometimes rendered in English as laicity or laicism. While the term was coined in 1871 in the dispute over the removal of religious teachers and instruction from elementary schools, the term laïcité dates to 1842.
In its strict and official acceptance, it is the principle of separation of church (or religion) and state. Etymologically, laïcité is a noun formed by adding the suffix -ité (English -ity, Latin -itās) to the Latin adjective lāicus, loanword from the Greek λᾱϊκός (lāïkós "of the people", "layman"), the adjective from λᾱός (lāós "people").