Top French court advised to allow nativity scenes in public buildings for Christmas…only if they don’t have “any specific religious intention”

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”. (Le Monde, France24)

Nativity scenes should be allowed in public buildings on three conditions (Le Monde):

  • if they are temporary;
  • if they are not accompanied by any religious proselytism;
  • if they have a festive or cultural character.

This is an open interpretation of secularism which the State Council has been defending since a lot of time,” said Guillaume Drago, professor of Public Law at the Panthéon-Assas (Paris II) University to Le Figaro.

In the picture: Adoration of the Shepherds  by Caravaggio (1609)