9 Jul 2004

French Polynesia embroiled in a row over the placement of a crucifix in the Assembly.

3:32 pm on 9 July 2004

A church in French Polynesia's waded in to a political row about the newly-elected assembly.

The speaker, Anthony Geros, has decided to place a crucifix in the assembly chamber.

But the Evangelical Church says there can't be symbols of a single religion in an institution meant to represent plurality.

Pastor Taarii Maraea says even though most of the people are Christian, the cross doesn't have the same meaning for an important share of the population.

Shortly after his election to the speakership, Mr Geros, who's a Catholic, said the crucifix would bless the proceedings with an atmosphere of union, harmony and calm.

Pastor Maraea says it's more important for the church to stay independent, and that the assembly should concentrate on the right of free expression and support liberty.

The high commissioner Michel Mathieu's made two appeals to the French council of State about the presence of the crucifix.