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Judges rule against crucifix

05 November 2009

by Bill Bowder

Forbidden: a student writes on a blackboard next to a crucifix in class in Rome REUTERS

Forbidden: a student writes on a blackboard next to a crucifix in class in Rome REUTERS

THE STATE should not allow crucifixes in its schools, because to do so impinged on the freedom not to believe in any religion, the European Court of Human Rights ruled on Tuesday.

Soile Lautsi, from Abano Terme, had taken the Italian government to court because of a crucifix displayed in the state school that her two children had attended in 2002. She said that it “was contrary to her right to ensure their education and teaching in conformity with her religious and philosophical convictions”.

She had first protested to the school governors, who decided to do nothing, as did the Constitutional Court of Italy. In 2006, the Consiglio di Stato dismissed her appeal on the grounds that the crucifix had become a symbol of Italian history and culture, of equality, liberty, and toler­ance, and state secularism.

In a unanimous judgment, however, the seven judges de­cided that the crucifix would disturb people who practised other religions or were atheists. “The State was to refrain from imposing beliefs in premises where individuals were dependent on it. In parti­cular, it was required to observe confessional neutrality in the context of public education, where attending classes was compulsory irrespective of religion, and where the aim should be to foster critical thinking in pupils.”

Ms Lautsi was awarded ¤5000. The Italian government said it would appeal.

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