Secularists challenge Spanish top police award to Virgin Mary statue
Spain's government is being taken to court over a minister's decision to give the country's top policing award to a statue of the Virgin Mary.
The country's interior minister, Jorge Fernandez Diaz, singled out an icon of the Virgin Mary, in Malaga, to receive the gold medal of police merit - which is normally reserved for police who have died in terrorist attacks.
Announcing the award in February, Diaz lauded the Virgin and her congregation for "maintaining a close collaboration with police, particularly during the acts celebrated in Holy Week, and for sharing police values such as dedication, caring, solidarity and sacrifice".
The award has infuriated secularists, who are demanding the medal be revoked, given that the Virgin and her congregation had "failed" to meet any of the minimum requirements.
"The norm specifies that the medal is given to people not immaterial beings," said Francisco Delgado, of Secular Europe, which brought the court case.
Jose Maria Benito, from the police union, told the online daily El Boletin: "Give the Virgin whatever you like, take her some flowers ... but don't give her a police medal."
Delgado said: "We thought it time the courts pronounced on these acts that seem to be more from the 18th century than the 21st." The case will be heard in June.