Italians Outraged by EU Ruling to Remove Crucifixes

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

Italians are reacting with outrage to a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights which will require crucifixes to be removed from all public schools.

The ruling is the result of a case filed by Soile Lautsi, the mother of two boys ages 11 and 13 who attended a public school in the town of Abano Terme in northeastern Italy from 2001-2002. Ms. Lautsi complained about the presence of crucifixes in the classrooms, saying they violated the secular principles the public schools are supposed to uphold, and the right to offer her children a secular education.

After losing in the Italian courts, the woman filed her suit before the European Court in July, 2006. The European Court ultimately ruled in her favor and ordered that she be paid 5,000 euros in damages.
The Italian government defended the presence of the crucifixes, saying they represent more than just religion, but the culture and tradition of Italy and Europe.

The European Court did not agree. In its ruling, the court said the presence of the crucifix “could easily be interpreted by pupils of all ages as a religious sign and they would feel that they were being educated in a school environment bearing the stamp of a given religion.” It added that the presence of such symbols could be “disturbing for pupils who practiced other religions or were atheists.”

Reaction to the ruling was swift and heated.

The Vatican expressed “shock and sadness” at the court ruling. “Europe in the third millennium is leaving us only Halloween pumpkins while depriving us of our most beloved symbols,” said Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s Secretary of State.

“The multiple significance of the crucifix, which is not just a religious symbol but a cultural sign, has been either ignored or overlooked,” the Italian Bishop’s Conference said in a statement.

Condemnation of the ruling also crossed ideological lines in what some are calling a “a rare moment of unity” among Italian politicians.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi called the ruling an attempt to “deny Europe’s Christian roots. This is not acceptable for us Italians.”

He pointed out that Italy has so many churches that “you only have to walk 200 meters forwards, backwards, to the right or to the left and you find a symbol of Christianity.”

He added: “This is one of those decisions that often make us doubt Europe’s good sense.” 

The Minister of Education, Mariastella Gelmini said that “the presence of crucifixes in the classroom does not signify adhesion to Catholicism, but rather represent our tradition. The history of Italy is full of symbols and if they are eliminated, a part of us will end up being eliminated.”

After stating that no one wanted to impose the Catholic religion in Italy, she noted that the Italian constitution “rightly recognizes the value of the Catholic religion for our society.”

Italy’s Minister of Agriculture, Luca Zaia, also deplored the ruling, saying “The Court has decided that crucifixes offend the sensibilities of non-Christians. It’s the Court that is offending the sentiments of the European peoples who have their origin in Christianity. What an embarrassment!”

In addition, former Minister of Culture, Rocco Buttiglione, said the ruling was “abhorrent.”  He called for it to be strongly rejected saying, “Italy has its culture, its traditions and its history.  Those who come among us should understand and accept this culture and this history.”

Mayors all over the country are vowing not to obey the ruling.

Meanwhile, Ms. Lautsi and her husband, Massimo Albertin, said they were satisfied.

“We believe the ruling is a positive signal from Europe to Italy, which seems to increasingly lose its secularism,” Albertin was quoted as saying by the ANSA news agency from his home in Albano Terme. “The crucifix creates discrimination.”

The government has already announced its plans to file an immediate appeal.

© All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly®/Women of Grace®

Comments are closed.