Home > State support > France > 2013-02-15 - Council of State, n. 347050

2013-02-15 - Council of State, n. 347050

State support · France · Religious heritage · Subsidies

Traditional relics ostensions cannot be funded as cultural events

Key facts of the case - Two cities received subsidies from the County to fund traditional ostensions of catholic relics. Several applicants asked for the annulment of General Council decision to grant those subsidies, on the ground that they are in breach of article 2 of the December 9th, 1905 which provides that « the Republic neither recognizes nor salaries or subsidizes any religion ».

Main reasoning of the court - The Council of State deems that these ostensions are religious ceremonies implying processions and masses, based on the worship of the catholic saints and the presentation of the saints’ relics to the public, although they have a historic, cultural, touristic and economic interest.
The result is that the interpretation of Article 2 of the Act of 9 December 1905 adopted by the Council of State in 2011 does not apply in the case at hand. This 2011 case law allows public authorities to grant subsidies to religious groups carrying out at the same time religious and non-religious activities, provided notably that such subsidies are used for non-religious activities only.
Furthermore, it was argued by the local authorities and religious groups involved that the prohibition of Article 2 of the Act of 1905 amounts to discrimination with regard to Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights. The Council of State interestingly replies that in the light of the history of State-Church relationships in France for over one century, this ban on public subsidies aims at guaranteeing the neutrality of public authorities in religious matters.
Accordingly, the County cannot, without infringing the article 2 of the 1905 Act, grant subsidies to the cities and brotherhoods organizing those ostentions, although those persons have not exclusively religious activities.