Bavaria’s newly sworn-in state premier has ordered crosses to be hung up in all state buildings in his southern German state. This was one of his first acts in office.

Markus Söder, of the Christian Social Union (CSU), conservative sister-party to Angela Merkel‘s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), announced that a cross would be hung in every public building from June 1.

As reported by Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, Söder, who took over the Bavarian government from CSU leader and political rival Horst Seehofer in March, took to social media to call the move a “clear avowal of our Bavaria identity and Christian values”.

Söder went on to claim that the directive was not a violation of constitutional rules about religious neutrality, because it was a symbol of “Bavarian identity”, rather than religion. Bavaria remains a majority Christian state, and one of the most Catholic regions in the country.

Söder’s directive applies only to state authority buildings in Bavaria — not to local district buildings or federal buildings, over which his government has no authority — though it does apply to all school classrooms and courts.

“Why can the CSU never think of anything that brings people together, instead of trying to divide the country at every level?” wondered Jan Korte, leader of the Left party’s parliamentary group in the federal parliament. “Söder’s unconstitutional crucifix decree is not just the clumsiest election campaigning, but also exploitation of religion for personal reasons.”

Christian Lindner, head of the neo-liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP), also tweeted his disapproval. “The way Markus Söder and the CSU constantly exploit religions for their party politics, reminds one of (Turkish President Recep) Erdogan. The constitution has no religion!”