“The city council financed the repair of the statue because it is a high symbol of the city’s history and heritage,” Poupon said. “Therefore, its defenders consider that it has, just like the Statue of St. Michael in Vendée, a cultural dimension rather than a religious one.”
Poupon’s association, which has surrounded itself with several lawyers to explore the legal avenues still available in the Sables d’Olonne case, is basing its legal argument on this cultural aspect of the statues involved to counteract the accusation of infringement of secularism.
“Unfortunately, we are not very optimistic about the outcome of the case before the Council of State, given its previous decisions in other legal cases initiated by the Libre Pensée,” he continued, highlighting the scope of action of this federation, which is leading legal actions in the whole country.
“They are pretty much everywhere and because of their pressure on mayors and public officers, many other Catholic monuments and statues will be removed or not restored in the future.”
Poupon said that several other cases were not reported in the media and not opposed by citizens or politicians because of a sense of defeatism caused by their accumulated legal victories.
“It is an association of anti-clerical pensioners who occupy their time with these legal battles. It is a small but very influential minority,” Poupon lamented, adding that the anger of the inhabitants of the cities targeted by their actions is reinforced by the fact that none of the members of La Libre Pensée live there.
“We believe it is time to react to this growing threat to our heritage and culture and we have created ‘Touche pas à ma statue’ with the aim of publicizing these cases as much as possible, to encourage networking and to raise awareness among the greatest number of people.”
Apolitical and nondenominational, the association, which is currently collecting donations, aims to promote the emergence of local antennas across the country to favor more concrete actions, including demonstrations that will continue in Vendée and all the cities targeted in the future.
“We’re receiving a large popular support,” Poupon said, “including from many non-Catholics for whom these statues, crosses, and nativity scenes are the guarantors of their French identity.”
Solène Tadié is the Europe Correspondent for the National Catholic Register. She is French-Swiss and grew up in Paris. After graduating from Roma III University with a degree in journalism, she began reporting on Rome and the Vatican for Aleteia. She joined L’Osservatore Romano in 2015, where she successively worked for the French section and the Cultural pages of the Italian daily newspaper. She has also collaborated with several French-speaking Catholic media organizations. Solène has a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas.