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. vel

    I wonder if just a "cross" would be acceptable in such a "Christian" nation. If not, then yes, it is discrimination and the Papacy has a stranglehold. Considering that anti-Catholicism I have witnessed from evangelical Christians in the US, I'm suprised that they aren't more in a lather. I will admit that "Albert" and the other frothing "TrueChristians" who post here have done a good job of representing them, with their claims of who is a "TrueChristian" and who is not. No wonder each sect was burning the other at the stake, each sure that they and they alone know what their God "really meant". It's sad to see so much effort and resources go to the bickerings of people who want their invisible impotent friend to be recognized "better" than the others. How pitifuly primitive.

    June 30, 2010 at 9:32 am |
    • Albert

      You have misrepresented what I have said. My challenge was for someone to prove from the Bible where the use of a crucifix is required. No proof can be found. So by simple process of elimination, one who is searching for the God spoken of in the Bible can conclude that wearing, hanging, or otherwise using a Cross as a symbol/idol, is not what a "True" Christian would do. I made no mention of a specific right or wrong religion. I was pointing out that by going to the source, the Bible, and actually studying it as apposed to hearsay, one can find the truth. That is not pitiful at all.

      More then likely, the reason of your bitterness towards any type of God is based on your understanding of God which is again, more than likely based on false doctrine.

      I'll tell you what, show me from the Bible where a crucifix is an acceptable for of worship to God. Logically, if you cant find one (which you wont), then that proves that their are religions that are misrepresenting Christianity. If you dont do the research, then how can you draw your conclusion that God doesn't exist? You are no better then those you accuse of being blind, because you are blind yourself.

      June 30, 2010 at 10:08 am |
  2. Michael Schulze

    As a parent raising a secular child, as they are already, if I saw a crusifix in my sons classroom I would take it up with the school myself.

    June 30, 2010 at 9:30 am |
  3. DD

    Why does a piece of art on a wall matter?

    June 30, 2010 at 9:28 am |
  4. rAdam82

    Letting them have their tribal fetish doesn't make it any more real, who cares. If they want to worship a glorified zombie, so be it.

    June 30, 2010 at 9:25 am |
  5. Monty Gaither

    ' "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. '

    Among other things the symbol is of death, torture, and bigotry. It appears that many in Italy realize the church needs this government endorsement to continue to grow. If the Italian government stops endorsing catholocism then it will start to shrink faster.

    By placing the crucifix in the classroom they are telling all non-catholics that they are at best second class citizens.

    June 30, 2010 at 9:19 am |
  6. Burgie

    Yawn. May the Great and Terrible Flying Spaghetti Monster ™ bless you all with al dente pasta and superior marinara sauce

    June 30, 2010 at 9:18 am |
  7. rungirl

    Isn't it "freedom of religion." When did it turn into "freedom from religion"?

    June 30, 2010 at 9:17 am |
  8. Albert

    The Bible makes it very clear that Idols have no place in the worship of "True" Christians"

    I find it interesting that the Catholic church gives absolutely no Bible based reason as to why a crucifix should be display. This is because non exists. Sure these people claim that they don't directly worship it but that is a lie, they do. It is a big part of their worship.

    If you love God, you do not need a symbol as a reminder. People should know that you are a true Christian by how you act and how you treat others. Jesus himself certainly did not promote the use of idols or symbols for worship.

    Plus a crucifix makes no logical sense. Imagine someone you love is killed by a gun. Would you wear a gun around your neck as a remembrance of that person? Of course not, that would be sick. The bottom line is that God commanded that no idols/symbols are to be used to worship him. That should be enough for "True" Christians.

    June 30, 2010 at 9:16 am |
    • Suz

      Albert – yes!! THANK YOU!!!

      June 30, 2010 at 9:33 am |
    • Geo

      If Catholics don't need crosses then Evangelical Christians don't need a bible...as the bible was taken from the Catholic Church (minus about 33 books) by Protestants a few hundred years ago.

      July 1, 2010 at 5:36 am |
  9. Jen

    I think there needs to be a clearer distinction made here. This is not just a cross, this is a crucifix. Those are two very different symbols. I can understand why a crucifix would be downright offensive to non-Christians and honestly, as a lapsed Catholic, I can tell you one of the things that disturbed me the most about the Catholic faith was how much it revels in violence and gore. Most Catholic churches and schools that I have visited can't be bothered to get an accurate depiction of Christ or the apostles in there (they were Middle Eastern, not European), but damn if they haven't made sure to get every single drop of blood and sweat perfectly framed on the contours of Christ's mostly nude body. One of my first memories of religious practice is sitting in church and being totally terrified of the crucifix and depictions of saints and Christ being tortured that hung around the church. Then I went to Italy and saw how much more intense and graphic their churches' imagery was!
    The point is, I seriously doubt anyone would be ok with a depiction of a naked man, with blood running down his naked body hanging around their children if it wasn't classified as a "religious" symbol and so why would anyone think that parents who do not practice Christianity would want their kids exposed to that sort of thing?

    June 30, 2010 at 9:16 am |
    • Geo

      I'm offended that you're offended by the crucifix...

      July 1, 2010 at 5:38 am |
    • Winkyb

      [ JMJ ] @Jen...@geo: trully o–ffen–ded! The repulsive, naked, down to the last bloody drop, ugly man on the cross depicts of the sins and abuses injustly imposed on the Innocent by others. Is the repulsiveness you feel mirrors your repulsion of your own shortcomings or do you get up every morning dancing in front the mirror rejoicing how beautiful your sinfulness begets you and everybody wants you??? If you are trully repulse, it is Spirit of God
      reminding you to reject sin and its ugliness scaring your beautiful soul! You do know; contrary to the plastic surgeons and cosmetics and immodest clothing, beauty isn't skin deep.

      July 1, 2010 at 1:27 pm |
  10. John

    The atheists want to impose their non-beliefs on the believers. If the cross or crucifix have been in the schools for ages, and those schools were built on Christian faith, what right do the atheists have in asking for the cross/crucifix to be removed. They are imposing their atheism on the Christians.

    June 30, 2010 at 9:16 am |
    • Albert

      I would like to see you use the Bible to make your point. The truth is, you cannot. Do not blame this on the atheists, blame it on false religious teachings.

      A crucifix makes no logical sense. Imagine someone you love is killed by a gun. Would you wear a gun around your neck as a remembrance of that person? Of course not, that would be sick. The bottom line is that God commanded that no idols/symbols are to be used to worship him. That should be enough for "True" Christians.

      June 30, 2010 at 9:22 am |
    • Bill

      Actually this is part of the legacy of Fascism, not of any old Italian tradition.

      June 30, 2010 at 11:01 am |
    • Geo

      @Albert- A crucifix does not have to make sense to you...leave it for the people who it DOES make sense to.

      July 1, 2010 at 5:40 am |
    • Winkyb

      [ JMJ ]@geo...LOL...get'em babey!

      July 1, 2010 at 12:53 pm |
  11. Enlighten

    I see a cross on the wall as threatening for children. Believe in me or go to hell. We brain wash them early. You are taught to believe you have no choice, until you get older. Then if you change your beliefs your ostracized.

    June 30, 2010 at 9:15 am |
  12. CC

    I'm sure with your level of hatred that you've read the Bible cover to cover. It is not merely a book on the faith, but also a history book and some of the earlier books are meant as guides as to how the people of faith lived their lives in their times. It is meant to be considered prayerfully and understood with God's help and not just a literal guide book. The lessons and teachings are timeless and still relevant. People like yourself who think they are one of the few on the planet who truly understand God and what true faith is are the ones who usually feel compelled to belittle those who believe in Christianity or Judaism or Islam and shout at them that their beliefs are unfounded and false, If you choose not to believe that is your perogative....just as it is their perogative to believe as they believe. Do you truly think that anyone who holds a belief in any particular faith gives any credence to your disrespectful comments or taunts? This is not about education, but belief. It is possible for one to believe in something that one has never seen or heard. Faith is not merely a matter of logic or physical proof, but rather a matter of the heart, mind, and spirit.....something you obviously know nothing about as you are so filled with hate and intolerance it spews from you unceasingly.

    June 30, 2010 at 9:13 am |
  13. rose

    No religion, no morals, no discipline and our students' self esteem is SO HIGH that they think they deserve everything in life. That is why we are having so many societal problems with our youth; SIMPLY: THEY ARE OUT OF CONTROL and whether we like it or not religion is a way to keep young people from doing bad things; the fear of GOD is better than the fear of nothing...

    June 30, 2010 at 9:11 am |
    • relians

      right, fear is the way? what a joke. and threatening children with a non-existent hell is child abuse, so you advocate child abuse? get out of the gutter

      June 30, 2010 at 2:51 pm |
  14. Carlton

    Many don't really believe that there is a true and living GOD!!! He's alive and well and for all you who don't believe I'm praying for you, because whether you believe or not GOD is still GOD and He protects and defends His word and people!!

    June 30, 2010 at 9:11 am |
    • Albert

      That is true, but nowhere in the Bible does it say that a crucifix is required for that.

      June 30, 2010 at 9:47 am |
    • Geo

      @Albert- You do not have to believe in the use of the crucifix my millions of christians in the world. But your misplaced belief in the false prophetess Ellen G. White is pretty obvious. Seventh Day Adventism is one of the false religions as described in the Bible. Take heed, my friend...

      July 1, 2010 at 5:46 am |
    • Winkyb

      [ JMJ ] @Carlton @Albert @geo...you all have missed the most relevant points about the Crucifix(Christ on the Cross) and its Power. First, it is price of your redemption. Second, it is your key to open the Gates of Heaven, your salvation. Third, it is the Sword that defeated Death and Satan and expels all the Enemies of your body and soul. Fourth, it is your life imparting Grace and Blessings throughout God's Providential Kingdom. Fifth, it is confirms the Virtues of Faith, Love, Hope for, in, with, for humanity in His Covenant Sacrificie of Life, Flesh, Blood...a holocaust trully acceptable to the one, true God as indicated by the given Sign of Jonah for Jesus was Resurrected in 3 days. Why do I say all this??? For Catholics do worship the Crucifix NOT the cross( Hollywood and Protestants lift up that symbol...for they have thrown off
      Christ's corpus). That is why we genuflect before each station of the Cross and say: "We adore You, O Christ, and we bless you; because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world. The Catholic's Cross is the Crucifix not the corpus-less cross. It is powerful for it expel evil and demons and its staff strikes the desert world to impart grace and life and raises God's people from the

      July 1, 2010 at 12:40 pm |
    • Geo

      @ Winkyb- Thank you, my friend and my shadow on this topic... 😉 Your knowledge on this subject is truly formidable and impressive. You are correct in what you say here. Feel free to chime in whenever my own knowledge lapses.

      July 2, 2010 at 3:48 am |
  15. ikram

    see this video about real facts of crucifixtion by dr. dirks: master of divinity and former priest and preacher in USA


    June 30, 2010 at 9:10 am |
    • SueK

      Seriously ? A youtube video is your way of convincing people about your faith ? A YOUTUBE VIDEO ??? Please tell me now that this video was made not by humans, but by your "God", just like your book. If this is your best argument, no wonder you need constant visual affirmations of you faith to be able to believe.

      June 30, 2010 at 10:40 am |
  16. Suz

    I am Jewish and respect all forms of faith, but I would feel uncomfortable in a classroom that had a crucifix on the wall. It's not a symbol of love or humanity or respect for all faiths, like the doofus in the article said; it's a statue of someone who was unjustly and brutally tortured and murdered 2,000 years ago because of the political climate of the time. It has NO business being in a classroom.

    June 30, 2010 at 9:09 am |
  17. Tommy

    LOts of debates and comments here, many make me think...in the end, I feel it is your own faith that counts, not any symbol (although I feel Italy as a nation should choose her path)

    June 30, 2010 at 9:04 am |
  18. Jim

    "the principles of the Catholicism as 'part of the historical patrimony of the Italian people' "

    The argument is specious. The historical patrimony of the Italian people has many other parts - the Mona Lisa and the Mafia, to name but two - yet the bishops are not arguing that their symbols should adorn every Italian classroom.

    June 30, 2010 at 9:02 am |
  19. Emmitt Langley

    Why should we be surprised by this? The primary goal of Socialism is a godless society. They have proven in the past that if you give them power, they are willing to slaughter hundreds of millions of people in order to eradicate belief in god(s), particularly the God of the Bible.

    Mao, Stalin, Lenin, and the French Revolutionists killed more people than all religions in the history of mankind combined.

    June 30, 2010 at 9:00 am |
  20. Cliff Vegas

    Italian classrooms without Crucifixes? What's next? Easter without church bells?

    June 30, 2010 at 8:59 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.