Goodbye, Separation of Church and State! Spain Gives Police Bravery Award to Virgin Mary Statue

Every year, Spain awards its top policing award to an officer who demonstrates selflessness in pursuit of public safety. The good news: in this culture with a deep-rooted patriarchal past (and possibly future), this year’s award was given to a woman. The bad news: the recipient is a statue of the Virgin Mary.

A mind-numbing breach of church and state if ever there was one, the country’s interior minister explained his decision based on the conviction that the Holy Mother maintained “a close collaboration with police, particularly during the acts celebrated in Holy Week,” and that Mary shares “police values such as dedication, caring, solidarity, and sacrifice." Yeah, I bet Santa Claus does too (potential recipient for 2015?).

Secularists (and I hope reasonable Catholics as well) are incensed over the move, and have filed a lawsuit against the interior minister to revoke the award. A representative of Secular Europe remarked that the medal isn’t supposed to be given to “immaterial beings,” and is typically given to flesh-and-bone officers who died in terrorist attacks. A representative of the police officers’ union agreed that the decision was inappropriate.

Under the Franco dictatorship, Catholicism was enforced as the official religion of Spain. And even though the country’s post-Franco 1978 constitution articulates the separation of church and state, critics lament that there are still many governmental ties to the church. The state still provides significant financial assistance to the church and heavily finances Catholic schools. If this recent award of “the gold medal of police merit” is any indication, the country may be increasing its patronage of the church, rather than gradually secularizing.

But hey, no hard feelings. We're happy for the inanimate object. Maybe the blessed statue will even make police chief in the near future!

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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