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French court orders removal of Virgin Mary statue as it is religious

The Bordeaux appeal court ruled the statue must be removed from a public street as it infringes upon France’s strict laws on secularism

A 1905 law on the separation of churches and state banned religious symbols in public places Pic: Libre Pensée 17

A statue of the Virgin Mary is at the centre of a national controversy after a Bordeaux appeal court ordered it to be removed within six months. 

Libre Pensée 17, an association which aims to defend secularism, had argued for the removal of the statue in La Flotte-en-Ré, on Ile de Ré off France’s west coast. 

They cited the 1905 law on the separation of churches and state, which banned religious symbols in public places, except for buildings used for worship, cemeteries, and museums. 

Symbols and monuments built before 1905 are not affected and can continue to be displayed. 

The statue was built for a family following World War Two to celebrate the return of a man and his son. 

It was kept in a private garden before being given in the 1980s to the village, which displayed it on a crossroads. 

It was remade in 2020 after the original was damaged in a car accident, leading a court to judge it illegal in March 2022. 

Confirming that initial decision, the appeal court noted that the village “did not intend to express a religious preference in installing it in 2020” but adding that the Virgin Mary is “an important figure in the Christian religion,” meaning the statue is of a religious nature. 

Around 300 people, including supporters of far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour, recently attended a protest in the village to defend the statue. 

Last year, an appeal court ordered the removal of a statue of the Archangel Michael in Sables-d’Olonne (Vendée).

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