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French court orders Virgin Mary statue removed from public park — but the mayor isn’t backing down

The moon appears behind a statue of the Virgin Mary. (Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images)

A French court has ordered that the town of Publier remove a statue of the Virgin Mary from a public park, but the town's mayor isn’t backing down.

According to CNN, the Grenoble Tribunal Administration ordered that the statue’s presence in the park violates the country's secularization laws. The country’s 1905 secular law states: "It is forbidden to erect or put any religious sign or emblem on the public buildings or in any public place of any sort, excepting buildings dedicated to worship and cemeteries and funeral monuments or museums and exhibits."

If the town fails to remove the statue, they could face fines of 100 euros (approximately $107) a day.

But Publier Mayor Gaston Lacroix, who authorized the statue’s construction, isn’t backing down.

"It was made to be a landmark. I wanted to unify," he told CNN. "But unfortunately there is a minority that creates division."

Lacroix said he ordered the statue in order to mark a summit in one of the town’s parks overlooking Lake Geneva. It was inscribed with the sentence, "Our lady of Lake Geneva is watching over your children."

The statue was financed with approximately 30,000 euros of public funds, and Lacroix acknowledged that "for 48 hours, it was illegal," but he said the town was later reimbursed with funds raised by private donations.

The mayor added that since there was no state injunction that personally ordered him to remove the statue he plans to wait for the regional authority to order him directly.

In an effort to promote secularism, France has banned "conspicuous" religious symbols from its public schools and became the first European nation to ban wearing the burqa and the niqab — garments worn by some Muslim women — in public.

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