To say that France is a secular nation is, well, a bit of a stretch. Yes, secularism or laïcité has been on the books since 1905 and yes, technically you’re not supposed to do things like wear religious trinkets in public or involve your religion in your political agenda, but we all know there’s a big difference between what you’re supposed to do and what actually ends up in your daily planner.
Laïcité has always had a particular slant in favor of Catholics — you know, those people who founded France? That was the state religion until 1905? Well, while schoolteachers who happen to be Muslim might not be able to wear hijabs to the classroom, kids wearing Miraculous Medals tend to be overlooked. And while a mosque anywhere in Paris drives people crazy, half of France’s most-visited tourist sites are churches and cathedrals.
But this week, Catholics in France were the ones claiming oppression. In the small town of Ploërmel, officials have received strict instructions from France’s highest administrative court to remove a cross attached to a statue of the late Pope John Paul II. They say it goes against the country’s laïcité policy. Needless to say, there has been enormous backlash, with one reporter even saying that the government is doing this to “leave more room for Islam.”
Whether this cross will come down easy is yet uncertain, but at least they get to keep the Pope statue. France 24’s coverage of the debate begins at 2:25.