UPDATE: Uproar after court says no crucifixes in Italian schools

November 3, 2009


(Photo: A crucifix in a Rome classroom, 3 Nov 2009/Tony Gentile)

Here’s an update from Phil Pullella in Rome:

The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Tuesday that crucifixes should be removed from Italian classrooms, prompting Vatican anger and sparking uproar in Italy, where such icons are embedded in the national psyche.

“The ruling of the European court was received in the Vatican with shock and sadness,” said Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, adding that it was “wrong and myopic” to try to exclude a symbol of charity from education.

The ruling by the court in Strasbourg, which Italy said it would appeal, said crucifixes on school walls — a common sight that is part of every Italian’s life — could disturb children who were not Christians.

“This is an abhorrent ruling,” said Rocco Buttiglione, a former culture minister who helped write papal encyclicals. “It must be rejected with firmness. Italy has its culture, its traditions and its history. Those who come among us must understand and accept this culture and this history.”

The Vatican spokesman said it was sad that the crucifix could be considered a symbol of division and said religion offered a vital contribution to the moral formation of people. Members of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s government bristled, weighing in with words such as “shameful,” “offensive,” “absurd,” “unacceptable,” and “pagan.”

Read the full story here.

crucifixHere is our earlier item from Strasbourg on the ruling:
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled on Tuesday that Italian schools should remove crucifixes from classroom walls, saying their presence could disturb children who were not Christians. The decision is likely to provoke a controversy in Italy, which is deeply attached to its Roman Catholic roots.

(Photo: Parents in Ofena campaign to keep crucifix in Italian schools, 29 Oct 2003/Alessandro Bianchi)

The case was brought by an Italian national, Soile Lautsi, who complained that her children had to attend a public school in northern Italy which had crucifixes in every room. Lautsi said this ran counter to her right to give her children a secular education and the Strasbourg-based court ruled in her favour.

“The presence of the crucifix … could be encouraging for religious pupils, but also disturbing for pupils who practised other religions or were atheists, particularly if they belonged to religious minorities,” the court said in a written ruling.

Read the whole story here. Click here for the full ruling (in French).

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The quotation above “The presence of the cross…religious minorities” from Para 55 of the Judgement leaves out the important words and thus the judgement is less clear. Here is a ham translation of the missing words:

“The presence of the Cross could easily be interpreted by pupils of all ages as a religious sign and they might feel that they were being educated in a school with a particular religion.”

The Italian govt argued that the Crucifix was not a religious symbol but a ethical symbol representing self giving and peace etc and that the Italian State, which was “laique” had freely left the crucifix in classes in order to find a compromise with Catholics in Italy (see para 42) and not for religious reasons.

This argument seems contradictory. The State does not view the crucifix as a religious symbol but leaves it in the classrooms to compromise with those who do regard it as a religious symbol. So the State does understand that the crucifix does is an important religious symbol in eyes of many Italians but it’s up to one’s own ideas whether it is a religious or ethical symbol.

I hope Italian Catholics will strongly protest this judgement and demand the State keep the crucifix in classrooms of Italian schools.

Posted by Bryan | Report as abusive

Snark alert: How can children possibly learn in a room without a crucifix?

Sadly… many will believe my question is NOT snark at all!

More snark… Thank you for giving me proof that I am a person! (the anti-spam word…)

Posted by TheraP | Report as abusive

If the schools are secular, then absolutely no religious symbols belong there. This includes pariotism as well, since patriotism is a religion. No flags, no statues, no monuments, no nothing.

Posted by Mufaso | Report as abusive

There is nothing in the bible, or church rules, that a person must wear a crucifix.

So not being allowed to wear one is simply a restriction of personal choice. Not religious freedom.

Posted by Noah Idea | Report as abusive

If we were to replace the crucifix with say a burqa, hijab, star and crescent or other symbols representing islam, there would be no uproar and people would actually applause this ruiling.

Posted by sidney | Report as abusive