Officials in the western French town of La Roche-Sur-Yon have had to dismantle a nativity scene, in the latest row over France’s secular traditions.
A judge in Nantes ruled that it was a “religious emblem” and incompatible with the French principle of “religious neutrality in public spaces”.
Town officials have reluctantly removed a figure of baby Jesus, plaster animals and a desk-sized stable they had erected in the local council building.
A local senator denounced the ruling.
France’s strict secularism laws mean that religious symbols are banned from public spaces such as schools, hospitals and local councils.
Secularism was a founding principle of the French Republic and was enshrined in a 1905 law separating Church and State.
“This decision is grotesque,” said Senator Bruno Retailleau in a statement. “Next we’ll be banning epiphany cakes at the Elysee Palace.”
He also argued that it was unfair as in Paris the mayor hosted a dinner celebrating the Muslim month of Ramadan every year.