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2007-04-24 - Administrative Court of appeal of Nantes, Commune de Trélazé, n. 05NT01941

State support · France · Public funding · Religious heritage

The purchase of an organ by a City council for a church is public funding prohibited by the 1905 Act

Key facts of the case - The City council of Trélazé had decided to purchase and restore an organ in order to put it into the main Church of the city. An inhabitant of the town lodged an appeal with the administrative Court of Nantes to obtain the annulment of this resolution on the grounds that it infringes the provisions of the December 9th, 1905 Act, which prohibits the public authorities from funding the Churches and religious activities.
The City council of Trélazé asks the Administrative Court of Nantes to overrule the judgment annulling the resolution.

Main reasoning of the court - The Administrative Court upholds the first judgment. It relies on the combination of both articles 2 and 13 of the 1905 Act provisions. The article 2 provides that “ the Republic neither recognizes nor salaries or subsidizes any religion » while, according to the article 13, “the State, the Departments, the Cities and the public establishments of inter-cities cooperation will be entitled to grant the subsidies necessary to the maintenance and the conservation of the places of worship they own”. In the light of those provisions, the Court deems on the one hand that the purchase of an organ for a church does not belong to the expenses for maintenance purposes it is question of in the article 13 of the 1905 Act related to the separation between Church and State. Indeed, it may be qualified as a cultural investment, since it will be, according to the City council, used for cultural events only. On the other hand, the organ standing in the church will automatically be included in the goods let at the disposal of the clergy and the faithful for worship. Accordingly, the funding of the organ is an indirect subsidy to worship, forbidden by the article 2 and 19 of the 1905 Act.