French court wants religious Mary statue to be removed
A statue of the Virgin Mary must leave its pedestal in the French town of La Flotte. The figure has a religious background and is, therefore, an attack on secularism, a court ruled.
Petitions and the mobilisation of local officials did not achieve anything: the statue must go. Confirming a first decision of the administrative court of Poitiers in March 2022, the Bordeaux Court of Appeal also ordered the municipality of Charente-Maritime to "carry out its removal within six months".
The challenged statue, which bears the words "war vows", was made after the Second World War for a family grateful to see a father and son return alive from the conflict. First exhibited in a private garden, it was then donated to the municipality, which installed it in 1983 at a crossroads.
However, that move became a problem, according to the federation, since it violated the 1905 law, which effectively bans all religious expressions in the public space. After the statue gained attention in 2020, when a traffic accident damaged the statue, the federation successfully started a legal battle for the removal of the statue from the public sphere.
According to the Christian French news website Famille Chrétienne, the ordered removal is "a new and sad victory in a long series for the federation of Free Thought (Fédération Nationale de la libre pensée), a non-profit organisation that promotes freedom of conscience and refers to rational and scientific principles to free itself from dogmas. It advocates, among other things, a strong harder line towards the Church.
According to mayor Jean-Paul Héraudeau, the whole affair is a "ridiculous controversy". This reports the Catholic daily La Croix. Héraudeau argues that the statue is part of the historical heritage of La Flotte, being "more of a memorial than a religious statue".
In an interview with the regional daily Charente-Libre, Héraudeau declared that he is willing to go to the Council of State or the European Court for Human Rights to fight for the statue. Besides that, a petition against the statue's removal has already surpassed 29,000 signatures.
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