(Italy) European Court of Human Rights' Ban on Crucifixes in Public Schools Overturned

Country: European Institutions (EU, ECHR, et.al.)

Date of incident: March 18, 2011

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) had ruled on November 3rd, 2009, that the display of crucifixes in public schools restricted religious freedom. "The compulsory display of a symbol of a given confession in premises used by the public authorities ... restricted the right of parents to educate their children in conformity with their convictions." The judgment was overturned on March 18th, 2011.

The ECHR decision came in response to a single suit brought by an Italian citizen of Finnish origin who has been campaigning for eight years to have crucifixes removed from schools. While the ECHR, as a body of the Council of Europe, did not have the power to order the removal of crucifixes, "what it does do is find a violation of the Convention. The Italian government appealed the decision which was subsequently overturned on March 18th, 2011. Read the Court's press release here: http://www.echr.coe.int/echr/resources/hudoc/Lautsi_PR_ENG.pdf  Read the text of the judgment here: 
http://www.echr.coe.int/echr/resources/hudoc/lautsi_and_others_v__italy.pdf  View comments on the ruling by EU-law expert Joseph Weiler here...  The overturning is related to a European-wide uproar following the decision in 2009: Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi SJ, said in 2009 that the decision had been greeted with "astonishment" in the Vatican. "The Crucified, remember, was always a sign of God's offer of love and union and reception for all humanity," Lombardi said. For this reason he said he is "sorry that it would be regarded as a sign of division, exclusion or restriction of freedom. This is not in the common sentiment of our people." The Italian bishops' conference issued a statement saying the ruling is "likely to artificially separate the national identity from its cultural and spiritual matrix." The bishops called it an example of Europe's "degeneration into secularism, hostility to all forms of the political and cultural importance of religion." Italian Foreign minister, Franco Frattini, however, said the ruling is "a fatal blow to Europe of values and rights." Interior Minister, Roberto Maroni, called it a "mistake and an act of insensitivity" and the fruit of a "partial and ideological" court. Agriculture Minister Luca Zaia called it a "shameful" decision and said, "Pending clarification of the reasons I cannot but side with all those, believers or not, religious or not, Christian or not, who feel aggrieved by an abstract and pseudo democratic ruling. "The one who is offending the feelings of the peoples of Europe born from Christianity is without doubt the Strasbourg court. Without identity there are peoples, and without Christianity there would be no Europe." Minister of Youth, Giorgia Meloni, said, "The crucifix is a symbol inextricably tied to the identity of European peoples, even beyond its religious meaning." This was backed up by Minister of Economic Development Claudio Scajola who called the crucifix a "universal symbol of love, gentleness and peace." Union of Christian and Centre Democrats (UDC) party leader Pier Ferdinando Casini said, "The decision to reject the presence of the crucifix in schools is the first consequence of the timidity of European governments that have refused to mention the Christian roots in the European Constitution." Read more on the first instance judgment: http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2009/nov/09110311.html Read more on the reactions to the first instance judgment in 2009: http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2009/nov/09110406.html "12 Theses for Displaying the Cross in Public Spaces" on http://www.europe4christ.net/index.php?id=542
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