After a French court confirmed the removal of a statue of St. Michael from a seaside town, supporters have vowed to continue their fight to keep it standing.
On Friday, Sep. 16, the Court of Appeal in Nantes ruled in favor of removing a statue of St. Michael in the town of Les Sables-d’Olonne in the Vendée.
The court decision was made against the wishes of more than 90% of participants in a consultation held by the town’s mayor, Yannick Moreau, last March.
On Sept. 29, the feast day of the archangel, one supporter posted an image of the statue on social media, writing “A thought for the statue of Saint-Michel in Les Sables D’Olonne in Vendée which, according to the court of Nantes, must be removed in the name of ‘secularism’ while the people of Sablais in a popular referendum have voted to maintain.”
According to a report in Le Figaro, the municipality will now take the legal fight to the Conseil d'État. The Council of State is the supreme court for administrative justice in France.
The statue was installed in 2018 opposite the church of St. Michael. It was initially at a school of the same name from 1935 until 2017.
In 2021, a complaint was filed by the “Libre Pensée de Vendée,” a group that advocates secularism and “free thought” and initially opposed the statue’s installation.
The concept of secularism — laïcité — has been a fixture of French law since 1905. At that time, the Third Republic officially established state secularism, causing a subsequent wave of anti-Catholicism, which included the end of government funding for religious schools, mandatory civil marriage, and the removal of chaplains from the army.
The group cited a 1905 law on the separation of church and state. Article 28 prohibits the display of religious images in public spaces, except for places of worship, cemeteries, monuments, or museums.
On Dec. 16, 2021, a hearing at the Court Appeal in Nantes decided that the statue must be unbolted within six months.
According to the ruling, although the statue is in the forecourt of a church, “the square on which the statue was installed is not a building used for worship,” and the statue must therefore be removed in accordance with 1905 laws.
Demonstrations have been held to protest the removal of the statue, according to local media reports.