In 2011, at the instigation of its Mayor, Gaston Lacroix, the commune of Publier, Haute-Savoie, unveiled a statue of Notre Dame du Léman in a municipal park. The statue had been erected without any prior debate in the municipal council and the costs of the exercise, some €24,000, had been funded from the municipal budget.
The Loi du 9 décembre 1905 concernant la séparation des Eglises et de l’Etat declares in Article 28 that:
“It is forbidden, in the future, to erect or affix any religious sign or emblem on public monuments or in any public place whatsoever, with the exception of buildings used for worship, burial grounds in cemeteries, funerary monuments, as well as museums or exhibitions.” [Il est interdit, à l’avenir, d’élever ou d’apposer aucun signe ou emblème religieux sur les monuments publics ou en quelque emplacement public que ce soit, à l’exception des édifices servant au culte, des terrains de sépulture dans les cimetières, des monuments funéraires, ainsi que des musées ou expositions].
The Fédération de Haute Savoie de la Libre Pensée challenged the decision on the grounds that it breached Article 28 and the principle of laïcité; and on 30 January 2015, the Chief Clerk of the tribunal administratif de Grenoble wrote to the council with a copy of the tribunal’s judgment ordering the municipality to remove the statue from the park.
Nothing happened, and Le Monde now reports that In a further judgment of 24 November, the tribunal has again ordered the Mayor to “remove from the communal public domain the statue of the Virgin Mary bearing the inscription Notre Dame du Léman watches over your children“. The commune has three months in which to comply with the judgment, under threat of a daily fine for non-compliance of €100.