French court orders mayor to remove nativity scene from city hall

Representative image: a French court has ordered the mayor of Béziers to remove a nativity scene at the city hall. | Pixabay/Myriams-Fotos

A French appeals court has ordered the mayor of Béziers to permanently take down a nativity scene that was installed at the city hall in 2014.

Breitbart News reported that the administrative court of appeal of Marseille has ruled that the nativity scene, installed by Robert Ménard after he had been elected mayor of the Béziers, had no place in the city hall.

Shortly after its installation in 2014, complaints were lodged against the religious scene, with some claiming that it breaches France's secularization laws.

Despite the court case, the mayor installed the nativity scene in 2015 and he installed another one in 2016, adding a "more cultural and festive dimension," accompanied by a Christmas tree and a mailbox to write to Santa Claus. Ménard vows to put up another scene this year, despite the court ruling, noting that the display will reflect local regional customs.

Breitbart noted that the mayor's planned display could possibly get around the ban as a judgment from 2016 has stated that nativity scenes were allowed in public places if "special circumstances show that the installation is of a cultural, artistic or festive nature."

"They will try to ban our #crèche of 2017, 2018 and up to 2030. We will never yield on our culture!" the mayor tweeted in response to the court ruling.

In a column for his former magazine, Boulevard Voltaire, the mayor said that he is respectful of secularism, but he stressed that it should be an "open, tolerant secularism that does not consist in chasing down what we are and denying our history."

Last month, the Conseil d'Etat, France's highest administrative court, made a similar ruling on a cross above a statue of former Pope John Paul II at the town square in Ploërmel.

The court ordered the cross removed, citing a 1905 law that prohibits religious monuments or symbols in any public place that is not a museum, cemetery or place of worship.

Polish Prime Minister Beata SzydÅ‚o asserted that the order to remove the cross from the memorial was a kind of "anti-European totalitarianism."

Szydło had proposed moving the monument to Poland to save it from "censorship," while the Mayor of Ploërmel, Patrick Le Diffon, expressed plans to sell the town square to private investors, "thus circumventing the problem" of a cross appearing on public land.

According to Breitbart, the Hungarian government also made an offer to take the cross, with the Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó saying: "Is it really true that in 21st century Europe we are removing a Christian symbol? Is everyone entitled to religious freedom except for Christians?"