A French court ordered on Friday the removal of a statue of the Virgin Mary from a small town on the grounds that its display violates the separation of church and state.
The court’s order ended four decades of the statue’s display at a crossroads in La Flotte, France, a town of about 2,800 people, according to Agence France Presse (AFP). A local family originally erected the statue after World War II in gratitude for a father and son’s safe return from the war, the outlet reported. A private garden first housed the statue, until the family gifted it to the town and saw its placement at the crossroads in 1983.
The statue sustained damage after it was struck by a passing car in 2020, the outlet noted. Its restoration included the addition of a platform, a move which drew the attention of of an organization that advocates for the defense of secularity. La Libre Pensee 17 filed a complaint, citing a 1905 French law that forbids the display of religious monuments in public places.
Mayor Jean-Paul Heraudeau appealed instead to the statue’s “historical heritage,” calling the complaint “ridiculous,” AFP quoted. It should be regarded as “more of a memorial than a religious statue,” the mayor said.
While the court acknowledged the town’s intentions, its ruling favored the argument of the Virgin Mary as an “important figure in Christian religion,” giving it “an inherently religious character,” according to AFP. In accordance with the court’s order, the town has six months to remove the statue. (RELATED: ‘Clear Case Of Religious Discrimination’: Condo Association Demands Virgin Mary Statue Removal From Owners’ Property)
29 septembre, fête de Saint-Michel l’Archange.
Une pensée pour la statue de Saint-Michel aux Sables d’Olonne en Vendée qui selon le tribunal de Nantes doit être retiré au nom de la « laïcité » alors que les Sablais dans un référendum populaire ont votés son maintien à 97.5%. pic.twitter.com/xJaPgWxkLc
— Florian (@FlorianFrVendee) September 29, 2022
A similar 2021 complaint filed by Libre Pensée de Vendée invoked the 1905 law on separation of church and state, according to Catholic News Agency. The Court of Appeal in Nantes ordered the removal of a statue of St. Michael which stood opposite a Catholic church in the seaside town of Les Sables-d’Olonne.