June 29th, 2010
03:57 PM ET

Italy fights for crucifixes in classrooms

Editor's Note: Click here for an update on this story

Italy will fight Wednesday against a European court ruling that crucifixes in classrooms violate students' right to freedom of religion.

The European Court of Human Rights found unanimously last November that the display of a particular religious symbol - such as the Christian cross - in a classroom "restricted the right of parents to educate their children in conformity with their convictions, and the right of children to believe or not to believe."

But the court agreed in January to hear Italy's appeal. Ten other European governments, dozens of European lawmakers and half a dozen non-governmental organizations have also gotten involved in the appeal.

The original case was brought by an Italian woman, Soile Lautsi, who objected to the crucifixes on the walls in her two sons' classrooms.

She fought her way through the Italian legal system starting in 2001, arguing that she wanted to raise her children as secular, according to court documents.

Italian courts ruled earlier that the cross was a symbol of Italy's history and culture, prompting Lautsi to take her case to the European court in Strasbourg, France.

It awarded her 5,000 euros ($7,400) in damages in November.

The court does not have the power to force Italy to take down the representations of Jesus on the cross, but if its ruling stands and Italy does not comply, the door would be open for others to sue on the same grounds, court spokesman Stefano Piedimonte told CNN.

Leading Catholic figures expressed astonishment and anger at the ruling last year. The Italian Conference of Bishops called it "cause for bitterness and many perplexities."

"It does not take into account the fact that in Italy the display of the crucifix in public places is in line with the recognition of the principles of the Catholicism as 'part of the historical patrimony of the Italian people,' as stated in the Vatican/Italy agreement of 1984," the bishops said in a written statement.

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re told the leading Italian daily La Repubblica he could not understand it, and that no one with common sense could have expected it.

"When I think that we are talking about a symbol, the crucifix, an image that cannot but be the emblem of a universally shared humanity, I not only feel

disappointed but also sadness and grief," he said.

"The crucifix is the sign of a God that loves man to the point of giving up his life for him. It is a God that teaches us to learn to love, to pay attention to each man ... and to respect the others, even those who belong to a different culture or religion.

"How could someone not share such a symbol?"

Seventeen judges will hear the appeal Wednesday and will issue a ruling at a later date.

The governments of Russia, Greece, Armenia, Romania, Lithuania, Malta, San Marino, Bulgaria, Monaco and Cyprus are also involved in the appeal, the court said.

The European Court of Human Rights was set up in Strasbourg by the Council of Europe Member States in 1959 to deal with alleged violations of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights.

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Catholic Church • Education

soundoff (845 Responses)
  1. JC

    I am sure that everyone who is saying that a symbol does not impose anything upon others, that they simply do not have to look at it, would be the first to complain if the symbol was of another religion. Or maybe a symbol of gay marriage, like two guys holding hands. Is it ok to have a picture of two guys staring deeply into each others eyes and holding hands in your childrens classroom? Why not? It is just a symbol. You don't have to look at it. And if your arguement is that it is not appropriate in school then that same argument applies to religion. Religion is about suppression of ideas (why think when religion already claims to know all the answers). Basically, do what you want in privacy but stop shoving it in everyone elses face.

    June 30, 2010 at 8:33 am |
  2. bam bam

    I agree Steven, our world is being ruined by the followers of Islam. We are all so crazed by political correctness that nothing will be done. Look around people, it is almost too late. At this point I don't care if you think I am racist or not, these people are evil and need to stay in the middle east where they belong.

    June 30, 2010 at 8:29 am |
  3. kapukane

    The cross has no business being in schools where children can be exposed to this symbol. Children are our future and must be protected from this insanity that is Christianity.

    June 30, 2010 at 8:28 am |
    • Matlex

      Protect us from your insanity, please. Good idea.

      June 30, 2010 at 8:42 am |
    • Veeb

      Yes but if you ever sent your children to a Muslim or Jewish school then i dare you to be brave enough to demand that their religious symbols be removed. You would not, and i understand why, its because if you criticize Christianity no one will turn round and blame you for being and anti Semite or anti Islam, and besides us Christians no longer execute people for being anti church (so its the only religion that is safe to criticize) – you get to live another day with us Christians.

      June 30, 2010 at 10:45 am |
  4. Fred

    This is Italy for crying out loud. There's crucifixes everywhere. They're in restaurants, shops, museums etc. Who cares? They're not upside down.

    June 30, 2010 at 8:27 am |
  5. David Goren

    I can't understand why this is so hard to understand, and am confused by some Christians that don't get it. First of all, this is Italy and not the U.S., so their culture may be different, but in the U.S., there are multiple faiths. This is not "Christian-bashing" simply because many people do not believe that a cross should be displayed in a public place. I actually have great respect for core Christian beliefs of love, doing for others, hard work, and honoring God. However, in the U.S. anyway, there is no official religion, but there IS freedome to practice your faith, or not to practice at all. These freedoms protect everyone. What if your Christian children had to sit in a classroom with an Islamic symbol on the wall – it may happen yet, so keeping our faith where it belongs, in our churches, homes, a symbol on our body, etc, is best. I know you are convinced your belief is the only correct one, but everybody thinks the same of their faith. It's a personal thing and the government needs to stay on the sidelines. I'm actually fine with things like a Christmas tree in a town square, because it is temporary, and there is nothing wrong with people expressing their beliefs, either, but a cross on a public school wall is showing preference. That's obvious and it shouldn't be there, as much as the synbol itself doesn't offend me.

    June 30, 2010 at 8:26 am |
  6. Steven Durham

    This is outrageous. Since when does a socialist "European" Court have the right to rule on an issue in a sovereign nation like Italy? Italy is historically a Catholic nation with crucifixes and other Catholic/Christian symbols being a part of everyday living. Churches are on almost every other block in some cities like Rome and the people are deeply religious. Not to mention the obvious fact that the Vatican is in the heart of Italy.

    I don't believe the opposition to having crucifixes in school classrooms is coming from a few Italian housewives who've become lapsed Catholic's. I'd bet that this fight was brought on by Muslim extremist's who's goal is to occupy every nation on the earth and work to change the laws in their favor. They've publicly said they want "Sharia Law" all over the world and this is how it starts. The influx of Muslim's in Europe is staggering and has drastically changed the color of the landscape in many European Countries and not for the better. Their efforts to change the culture and religion of other countries must be stopped at any cost.

    I hope the Vatican and other Christian leaders throughout the world will help fight this case and speak out against these people and their efforts. Silence is something we don't need.

    June 30, 2010 at 8:24 am |
    • kapukane

      I'm not a muslim and I believe in God, or Creator. However I do not want my child exposed to this symbol. This symbol represents Christianity which is nothing more than man created myth. The children are our future and should not be exposed to the Christian fairy tale. Young childrens minds can be vulnerable to this poison.

      June 30, 2010 at 8:38 am |
  7. Jonathan Cornell

    All Italian citizens need to let there government know that a European court should not make decisions for Italy.

    June 30, 2010 at 8:23 am |
  8. Peter Pan

    It's a way for the religious to mark what they think is their terrority with these symbols. Seems they think if their little symbols are not plain view for all too see they may loose control over their sheep (sorry flock), people will forget, and may not be able to indocrinate children, to create more sheep. The US have the correct approach separate the state and church. School is for educating, churches for indocrination and fairy tales as mentioned.

    June 30, 2010 at 8:23 am |
  9. Fred

    These crucifixes have been up for years, no one complained about them before and caused no ill effect for anyone. We might as well go to museums and remove every trace of religious symbols there too. Many people pick up on Christianity because they try to please too many people even at the expense of their own believes. Try your luck in Muslim countries, they will issue a fatwa for your head or Israel and you will be labeled as anti-Semite, what a farce.

    June 30, 2010 at 8:21 am |
  10. Constantine

    If we were to consider the length of Christianity's influence in Europe, that tenure lasted for 2000 years.

    The early church and the martyrs were to become the most dominant force in Europe. When all Italy was crumbling under the barbarian invasions, the church was the only beacon of hope. All life was centered on the church. The dark ages could have been darker, without the church stepping in to christianize the violent Germanic barbarian hordes.

    If the church had not existed. If Christ did not have a message of love and redemption, this world would've been umbearable to live in, especially during the dark ages.

    Not to be too long winded. Italy's very core roots were founded in the message of Jesus' love by the key apostles St. Paul and St Peter. These 2 apostles were examples of perseverance, long suffering and compassion for the sick and the lost. The epistles bear witness to a belief in a loving God who has brought in the new covenant of mercy and grace. This new covenant has in fact brought redemption to Europe and will continue to stir the Europeans, especially those who are spiritually poor and have no hope. It is a blessing to always have the message of Jesus preached even in the schools, for it is the Word of God that will change the hard hearts with the Love of God.

    June 30, 2010 at 8:19 am |
  11. stevie68a

    Religion is man made.A crucifix is a voodoo doll. Think about it: a figure of a man with pins (nails) stuck in.That's right, a
    VOODOO DOLL! Now, guess who.......

    June 30, 2010 at 8:19 am |
  12. SueK

    "How could someone not share such a symbol?" Possibly one of the dumbest comments I have read in quite a while. Did he forget that there do exist, GASP, other faiths whose symbol is NOT the cross ? And please stop blowing the trumpet about Italy being a "Christian" country. There are no such things as "one-religion" countries anymore, except Islamic countries, and this would make Italy equal to those. They are also the most violent, closed, and economically backward countries. Does Italy really want to join those ranks ? How is having NO displayed symbols against Christianity ? Does it say you shouldn't keep your faith ? No. Does it show Jesus in a bad light ? No. Does a blank wall have ANYTHING to do with supressing Christianity ? NO !!!! Oooooh but I keep forgetting – Christians think their religion is better than all others. Oh, ok then.

    June 30, 2010 at 8:16 am |
  13. Carlton

    Let me send a message to the whole world!!! Do not think in your little peanut minds that you can stop the Kingdom of GOD!!!
    All of you need to read the entire book of Deuteronomy, especially concerning living under blessings or curses!!! People who hate GOD are and GOD's people are destroyed to their face!!! Deuteronmoy 7:9 “Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments 10 and He repays those who hate Him to their face, to destroy them. He will not be slack with him who hates Him; He will repay him to his face. 11 Therefore you shall keep the commandment, the statutes, and the judgments which I command you today, to observe them.

    Pastor Evans

    June 30, 2010 at 8:14 am |
  14. Ash

    This is nonsense, if they do not want to see any crucifix then go to other countries.

    June 30, 2010 at 8:10 am |
  15. Citizen John

    Instead of denying people their right to expression, put various symbols on the wall. Political Correctness is going to destroy human society.

    June 30, 2010 at 8:10 am |
  16. MeNotYou

    "and who deemed the European Court of Political Correctness the ultimate judge ?" – that would fall in line with Obama's 'world view' of things. Didn't you know? The distribution of our 'wealth' to poorer countries is next ......

    June 30, 2010 at 8:08 am |
  17. Bill


    Would you ban a crucifix that others believe in (a symbol of love for all) and replace it with the "blank wall" of your own intolerance towards others' beliefs? Where is the love in this brave new world of religious discrimination and intolerance?
    June 29, 2010 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |

    - I would replace it with my pentacle. Any problems with that? Why do Christians consider cramming their symbols down other people's throats acceptable?

    June 30, 2010 at 8:08 am |
  18. cricket

    and who deemed the European Court of Political Correctness the ultimate judge ?

    June 30, 2010 at 8:01 am |
    • Tim

      The Atheism attacks have reached the soil where the vatican is..The Bible does describe times like these...it is pretty sad that nations and cultures that were built around centuries of Christianity to be so easily challenged and unraveled due to laws that permit the minorities to hide religion from schools.
      Its so bad isnt it to teach Christs work to kids , to love your enemies as well as your friends..something so pure and so un offensive to be subject to attack is ironic just like Christ was attacked and crucified.

      June 30, 2010 at 8:17 am |
  19. Tiffani

    I'm not catholic but i don't feel that a symbol forces any one to believe anything that you don't want to. I don't see the big deal of them leaving their crucifixes up, it is only their belief that makes it powerful to them and if you don't acknowledge it, it should means nothing to you. And if it is intimidating to you, then obviously you know how powerful it is and maybe you should change your ways.

    June 30, 2010 at 7:58 am |
    • comseses

      Finally somebody with good common sense! Well written

      June 30, 2010 at 8:01 am |
  20. James

    Doesn't matter what society. The crucifix is a graven image. The cross is a religious symbol.

    June 30, 2010 at 7:58 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.