Courts rule on nativity scenes

Cribs in maries can stay, courts in Montpellier and Paris decide

22 December 2014

THE MAYOR of Béziers has won a small seasonal battle for traditionalists this Christmas.

Each year, a series of rows break out over whether it is acceptable to display Christmas cribs in public buildings. And, as reported, this year is no different.

Robert Ménard, the far-right mayor of historic Béziers on the Hérault coast, had refused to bow to demands to remove a nativity scene from the town hall - and the Administrative Court of Montpellier has ruled in his favour.

The association Libre Pensée had said they would go to the administrative court if Mr Ménard did not remove the crib from the mairie’s entrance hall.

Mr Ménard insisted the crib is just “part of the cultural programme for the end of the year” - which also included a ceremony celebrating the Jewish celebration of Hannukah.

Speaking before the case went to court, Mr Menard told Le Figaro, “when I had an opening ceremony for it, there were Muslims there who found nothing wrong with it – am I also supposed to remove the ‘Happy Christmas’ banners from the streets of Béziers?”

The court rejected the arguments of opponents, who claimed the crib breached a 1905 law which says state bodies must not promote religion. It said that there was no reason to remove it in the absence of a threat to public order.

Another court today decided that the town hall in Melun, near Paris, can keep its nativity scene.

Like Mr Ménard in Béziers, the Melun town hall has argued the nativity scene is a traditional not a religious symbol.

Meanwhile, authorities in Vendee have launched an appeal against a recent ruling that ordered the removal of nativity scenes in the town.

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