State Council Allows "Decorative" Christmas Scenes at Town Halls

Country: France

Date of incident: November 9, 2016

Category: Government Restrictions

Attack against: Faith

Area of case: Governmental

After a bitter two-year battle over whether decorating town hall entrances with nativity scenes violated rules on secularism, the country’s highest administrative court ruled that as long as the intent behind the installation was "cultural, artistic, or festive" - and not religious proselytism - it was permitted.

The State Council was called upon to answer whether “a Christmas crib is a religious sign or emblem whose installation in a public place is systematically forbidden under the laws of December 9, 1905 guaranteeing the respect of the principle of secularism?”   In October 2016, the court’s judges were advised by its public rapporteur that the cribs were lawful under certain conditions. She said there were no grounds for a “systematic ban” on nativity scenes because they had become “progressively disconnected” from their “religious substratum” and now served only as a “decorative element” of Christmas. She said should be allowed on three specific conditions: they must be temporary, they cannot be accompanied by any evangelizing, and they must be “cultural or festive in character”.  However, she said that on no account could the crib be used as an “act of acknowledgement of a religious faith” accompanied by prayers or political speeches “backing the reinstatement of Christmas in the Catholic tradition”. The judges backed the advice. Sources: France24 and Telegraph