Virgin Mary Statue Wins Policing Prize, Then Outrage
She doesn't exactly meet the requirements, secularists say
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 30, 2014 12:10 PM CDT
A different Virgin Mary statue.   (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

(Newser) – Spain's top policing award this year went not to a heroic police officer but to ... a statue of the Virgin Mary. The country's interior minister, Jorge Fernández Díaz, awarded the gold medal of police merit to an icon of the virgin in Málaga because, as he explained in February, she and her congregation maintained "a close collaboration with police, particularly during the acts celebrated in Holy Week," and also share "police values such as dedication, caring, solidarity, and sacrifice." But secularists in the country are outraged, and are taking the interior minister to court in an attempt to get the award revoked, the Guardian reports.

"The norm specifies clearly that the medal is given to people, not immaterial beings," says Francisco Delgado of Secular Europe. "It's meant to recognize exceptional acts of service by police," and is usually given to officers who died in terrorist attacks. A rep from the police officers' union agrees: "Don't give [the Virgin Mary] a police medal, least of all one reserved for police officers who have lost their lives in an attack." Delgado points out that the country's 1978 constitution demands the separation of church and state, but "there are still so many ties to the church that Spain has never got rid of." But the group hasn't actually sued until now. The case will be heard in June. (Meanwhile, in Israel, a statue of the Virgin Mary is said to "weep" oil.)