French court orders town to remove statue of Virgin Mary

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A French court has ordered a small town to remove a statue of the Virgin Mary, saying the religious display violates the separation of church and state.

The statue is located at a crossroads in La Flotte, a municipality of 2,800 inhabitants on the popular holiday island Ile-de-Re, off France's Atlantic coast.

The statue was erected by a local family after World War II in gratitude for a father and son having returned from the conflict alive.

Its initial home was a private garden, but the family later donated it to the town which set it up at the crossroads in 1983.

In 2020, it was damaged by a passing car, and the local authorities decided to restore the statue and put it back in the same place, but this time on an elevated platform.

Complaint

That move triggered a legal complaint by La Libre Pensee 17, an association dedicated to the defence of secularity, on the basis that a French law dating back to 1905 forbids religious monuments in public spaces.

A court in Poitiers followed the argument as did, on appeal, the regional court in Bordeaux, ordering La Flotte to remove the statue, according to a press statement.

Local mayor Jean-Paul Heraudeau called the discussion around the statue "ridiculous" because, he said, it was part of the town's "historical heritage" and should be considered "more of a memorial than a religious statue".

La Flotte has six months to remove the statue, the court said.

(with AFP)


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