Are Nativity Scenes a Threat to Secularism?

Source: FSSPX News

“There was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7) The regional headquarters of the Vendée in France may once again be allowed to set up a Nativity scene in its lobby.

On Tuesday, September 19, the administrative Court of Appeals of Nantes re-opened a case that caused a good deal of controversy three years ago.

The Fédération de la Libre Pensée (FLP – “Federation of Free Thought”) brought the case to court in 2014, and the tribunal overrode “the implicit decision made by the President of the Conseil Général in refusing to use his powers to forbid” the Nativity scene.

Since then, there has been no Nativity scene in the lobby of the Conseil Général of the Vendée in December. The administrative judge who gave the first ruling on the case considered the Nativity scene as a “religious emblem” that is incompatible with the principle of “neutrality” in public services.

Three years have gone by. Today the government commissioner is recommending an annulment of the November 14, 2014 ruling by the administrative court of Nantes that forbade the Nativity scene in the name of the principle of secularism contained in the 1905 law of the Separation of Church and State.

He has requested that the court authorize this Nativity scene that “is not accompanied by any inscription, cross, crucifix, or crown”. “There are no religious knick-knacks,” insisted the commissioner at the hearing.

The Nativity scene may indeed be authorized once again. For one, because the commissioner’s recommendations are usually followed; but also because it seems that this would follow the precedent recently set by the highest administrative authority in France, as Bernard Gorce explained in the newspaper La Croix on September 20.

According to the State Council, the Nativity scene is both a cultural and a religious tradition; judges must therefore determine case by case which of the two is the reason for its installment in a public building. It established a few criteria: if there is a local tradition, if the Nativity scene is not “an act of proselytism or a religious statement”, but is simply set up in a festive or artistic spirit, then it is not an attack against secularism.

Even if the Nativity scene may hope to be granted a humble corner in the lobby of the Conseil Général of the Vendée, the State Council’s decision shows a striking lack of perspective: if the Nativity scene is a “both a cultural and a religious tradition”, it is precisely because the Gospel, the vector of the Faith by its very nature, fashions cultures and entire countries. In other words, if you erase the religion of the Gospel, civilization collapses and barbarism returns.