A French town which wishes to retain a statue of the Virgin Mary has been ordered to remove it by a French Court after a complaint by a secular campaigning organisation.
The Mayor of the town has described the decision as “ridiculous” and the town Council is considering appealing the decision further.
The statue was first erected in the small town of La Flotte-en-Ré in 1955 in gratitude for a father and son having returned from World War II alive.
Initially it was placed in a private garden, but after the family donated the statue to the town which then placed it at the crossroads at the entrance to La Flotte-en-Ré in 1983.
When the statue was damaged by traffic, it was repaired by the Council in the town and placed on a higher platform. This attracted a complaint from a campaigning secular group La Libre Pensee 17, on the basis of the country’s laws on the separation of Church and State.
A French law from 1905 also specifically outlaws religious monuments in public spaces.
Such laws have been used in the past to remove Christmas cribs from public places, leading one politician to describe the moves as “the ayatollahs of secularism” attacking the “Christian roots of France”
In the case of the statue at La Flotte-en-Ré, a court in Poiters had ruled that the statue must be removed, and now the regional court in Bordeaux has upheld that decision despite the argument of the local mayor Jean-Paul Heraudeau that it was part of the town’s “historical heritage” and should be considered “more of a memorial than a religious statue”.
The Administrative Court of Appeal of Bordeaux ordered the town council to remove the statue of the Blessed Virgin within six months. .
The court said that while the town authorities might believe it was part of heritage, “the Virgin Mary is an important figure in Christian religion,” which gave the statue “an inherently religious character”.