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Top French court advised to allow nativity scenes in public buildings

AFP archive | A nativity scene in Richmond, Virginia, USA.
1 min

The legal adviser to France’s top administrative court said Friday that public buildings should be allowed to display nativity scenes under certain conditions.


France’s rapporteur publique (public magistrate) Aurélie Bretonneau said that the Christmas tradition could comply with France’s vaunted laws to protect secularism.

Quoting France’s 1905 law on the separation of church and state, Bretonneau advised the State Council, France’s highest administrative court, that the principles of religious neutrality in France “do not forbid the installation of nativity scenes” unless they have “a specific religious intention”.

The State Council has been asked to rule on whether town halls can install manger scenes, a sensitive issue in France, where secularism is taken so seriously that civil servants working in public spaces are forbidden from wearing crucifixes, Jewish kippas or Muslim headscarves.

But according to Bretonneau, nativity scenes   or crèches in French   should be allowed on three specific conditions: they must be temporary, they cannot be accompanied by any evangelising, and they must be “cultural or festive in character”.

The State Council normally follows the rapporteur’s advice.

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