Joseph Weiler Comments the Lautsi-ECHR Crucifix Ruling

Joseph Weiler, a Jewish law professor at the New York University School of Law, represented the governments of Armenia, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Lithuania, Malta, the Russian Federation and San Marino in the case.

"Overturning the decision of the Chamber represents a rejection of a 'One Size Fits All' Europe and a vindication of its pluralist tradition in which equal dignity is accorded to the constitutional choices of a France and a Britain, an Italy and a Sweden and the other myriad formulae for recognizing religious symbols in the public space," Weiler said. "Europe is special in that it guarantees at the private level both freedom of religion and freedom from religion, but does not force its various peoples to disown in its public spaces what for many is an important part of the history and identity of their states, a part recognized even by those who do not share the same religion or any religion at all."

The lawyer spoke of a "particular spirit of tolerance" in Europe, "which explains how in countries such as, say, Britain or Denmark to give but two examples, where there is an established state church no less -- Anglican and Lutheran respectively -- Catholics, Jews, Muslims and, of course, the many citizens who profess no religious faith, can be entirely ‘at home,’ play a full role in public life including the holding of the highest office, and feel it is ‘their country’ no less than anyone else. It is an important model for the world of which Europe can be justly proud."

Weiler asserted that both states forbidding religious symbols in classrooms and those requiring them should ensure that young people do not misunderstand the situation.

"The prohibition of religious symbols should not be understood as a denigration of religion or religious people and the requirement of a religious symbol such as the cross, should not be understood as denigrating other religions or those who do not profess a religious faith at all," he said. "For the most part, this spirit is a contemporary European reality, Italy being a shining example.”

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Read the Court's press release here:  Read the text of the judgment here: