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. LP

    To all the Christians out there saying "what's wrong with that" and that it's not a big deal, suppose this.

    You walk into your children's classroom and there is no crucifix on the wall. Instead, the ONLY symbol with religious significance on the wall was some 8 armed Hindu god or goddess. Or perhaps a plaque saying "Praise Allah".
    What would your reaction be? I'll tell you what it would be. You would be the FIRST to scream bloody murder...that your children are christian, you are raising them christian and that damned non-christian religious symbol has no business in their school classroom....a PUBLIC school classroom.

    You know it, I know it, everybody knows it. Say otherwise and I'll tell you what else we all know....you're a LIAR.

    June 30, 2010 at 11:06 am |
    • chris

      I cannot speak for everyone because I am sure a lot of people would be offended, but personally I would not. "prais allah" would becuase it is not a symbol it is an order, but as far as religious symbols go they would not bother me. I would hope that my kids are tolerant of all religions and can value someone's faith or lack thereof. I would also hope that it would take much more than a religious symbol to influence my childrens values and beliefs

      June 30, 2010 at 11:42 am |
  2. Larry

    Roman Catholicism, Atheism, Evolutionism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islamism are all false religious belief systems. There are only two religions in the world: redemption by attempted human effort or by God's grace alone. Only one question matters: "Who do you say that I AM?" Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord, either in humble joyous acceptance or eternal painful regret. Where will you be 100 years from now and eternally beyond? Pray you may choose well.

    June 30, 2010 at 11:04 am |
    • Geo

      You forgot to mention Protestantism, Seventh Day Adventist, Baptist, Mormonism.

      July 1, 2010 at 5:02 am |
  3. CATOm

    No crosses but any muslim symbol is ok....well pretty much any other religious symbol except the cross is ok.

    June 30, 2010 at 10:59 am |
  4. vanessa

    I have to wonder what the reaction would be if it had been a Muslim symbol in a school– in the heart of an Islamic community? Would we be cheering on the death of religion, or decrying this awful infringement upon their right to express their culture?

    June 30, 2010 at 10:52 am |
  5. Verita

    I was raised in Italy. I was forced to study catolicism. I was lapped by an old filthy priest because I could not answer his question about the bible. I hate all religions. They are all a creation of man to suppress peole. I belive in science, the universe does not belong to god. religions are the souce of evil, hate, oppression and should not be taught in school. Do you want to pray to your jesus, God, Mohammed etc.......do it in your own home. Religions are the cause of all wars.

    June 30, 2010 at 10:50 am |
    • Geo

      You may believe in science, but science does not believe in you. Science believes in God because God created the laws that govern science.

      July 1, 2010 at 5:05 am |
    • Winkyb

      [JMJ]@verita...beautiful Verita...you name means Truth and Truth is God and God is Truth. Your name glorifies God. I have studied sciences...have you obtained your degree? Then you know well from your studies that science can only seek understanding of the principles and foundations laid by its Creator. You also realize that you a creature in His regard. You also realized it's limits that it's instruments of measurement or limited to the seen(matter) is unable to capture the unseen(spirit). You also realize we can only measure what is present in time and unable to step to that which is present outside of time. That science cannot create anything new but only employ the element and ingredients created by God Himself. Our medicines are limited to the body but ineffective for ailments of the soul...and understanding of these things is impossible separated from God. Verita, do not let a corrupt science that turnes on itself and bad experiences blind you to the Unseen and to the Seen in God's creation. Pray to the Holy Spirit to enlighten you to Ways of the Lord. Come back to the Church.

      July 1, 2010 at 8:30 pm |
  6. Stan

    Is Islamic call to prayers legal? It is nuisance to me.

    June 30, 2010 at 10:44 am |
  7. KCmdr

    I grew up Catholic, realized it was an invention of man that had its time and place, left, and now I'm unassociated with religions. I have no problem with this sort of thing in schools, as long as theology stays OUT of education. I.E. the teaching of "creationism" as a form of science, which it is most definitely not. Otherwise, I say let them have their icon... denying it just stokes their fires of righteousness, and Christians love to feel persecuted.

    June 30, 2010 at 10:38 am |
  8. JR

    Italy – and Europe – should show a little more respect for its minorities. Ostensibly benign disdain for minorities led to the holocaust. And please don't say that it can never again happen in Europe. Remember Bosnia!

    June 30, 2010 at 10:37 am |
  9. Ponderthescribe

    So what, if we don't shove crosses into everybody's faces then we do not believe in things such as peace and love?! For some people, god is not necessary for appreciating such obvious things. If Italy wants a sybol to encompass love and peace, nail peace signs or hearts to the school walls.

    June 30, 2010 at 10:32 am |
  10. Milton

    I am rather surprised the decision of Italy. I raised in India , a Hindu majority country. But most of reputable Schools and Universities are Catholics and most of Indians wanted to send their children to those Schools and Universities. Catholics Schools and Universities have very high respect and dignity in this country. All Catholics Schools put Crucifix in each class and there is no objectin. Of course some voilent states where Hindus wanted to put down Christians schools/colleges create problems.. Otherwise, Catholics schools/univerties are very highly regarded. This is the high time, Italy and European countries should learn from third world countries.

    June 30, 2010 at 10:32 am |
    • Stan

      Well said Milton.

      June 30, 2010 at 10:46 am |
  11. Veeb

    Just as we have a right not to see a crucifix in a classroom, others also have a right to see one if they so choose. It really comes down to freedom of choice, if i object to the crucifix then i have the option to send my children to a school that has no religious symbols. However, if i make the free choice of sending my children to a school where crosses are hung on the walls of classrooms, then I and my children must respect that particular school's policy.

    June 30, 2010 at 10:30 am |
  12. Aprile

    Times are changing! 30 years ago I remember Italy to be Italian. American troops were the only foreigners. There are many people from other countries living in Italy now, their children are italians and catholicism is not the only religion. I believe that public schools should not display a crucifix, we should not impose our old ways on other cultures. Respect , education and appreciation for diversity is the key here.

    June 30, 2010 at 10:28 am |
    • Geo

      Aprile, I think you need to try living in a burqa.

      July 1, 2010 at 5:10 am |
    • Winkyb

      [ JMJ ] @aprile-child: How much diversity in TRUTH do you want from the so-called "old ways?" There can be one truth and any other statement will either reaffirms or deny it (aka lie). The Italians have embaced this for centuries...this Truth...and died for this Truth. For centuries people traveled to Italy to enjoy this Mustard See Tree of Truth and live among its shades and wherever they go these Italian devotions have sprouted throughtout the world.

      July 1, 2010 at 8:04 pm |
  13. Carlton

    Catholic is a religion which means it does not produce Christ-likeness. The Holy Spirit, the Bible, the Preacher and the local non-relious or denominationinal church body are the primary tools GOD has chosen to save and transform people into Christ-likeness and not any religion or religious denomination. Denomination means a separation of people. That's the main reason poeple who claim to follow Jesus Christ are so divided!!! Read and study the Book (Bible) for yourself!!!

    Pastor Evans

    June 30, 2010 at 10:27 am |
  14. Siara

    I find this offensive. What if a young student is Jewish or Buddhist or whatever?
    Why can't Christian students who want to feel close to their faith wear a cross around their necks? There's nothing wrong with that.

    June 30, 2010 at 10:25 am |
  15. Tony

    The problem here is government sponsored schools–they should be done away with. Then people could put their kids in whatever school they want, with whatever symbols they want. Just like people can shop at whatever grocery store they want.

    June 30, 2010 at 10:21 am |
  16. Ben

    The crucifix should be mandatory in all public buildings, alongside sculptures of firing squads, guillotines, and electric chairs. This monolith of misery, torture, and slow death was hijacked by those plagued with the religious condition as a symbol of love and humanity. It's a symbol of humanity alright... just not the kind they're making it out to be.

    June 30, 2010 at 10:21 am |
  17. Zach

    Exodus 20:4 "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth"

    June 30, 2010 at 10:15 am |
  18. WonTonSoup

    I don't see a problem with having the cross in the school. It will remind everyone that their people were the ones who crucified Jesus to begin with (i.e. the Romans). Also, it is a reminder that it is a pagan religious symbol accross many nations. If these "so called" Christians want to break their own beliefs in the bible and worship a false idol, then let them do so! I have one myself, but it is dedicated to Ra.

    June 30, 2010 at 10:14 am |
    • Albert

      I agree that they should worship the way they want. They just need to stop calling themselves Christians. Basically, any one who has and idlol / symbol that they use in an effort to remind themselves or impress upon others that they are a "Christian", are not really Christians at all the Bible makes this very clear. And yes this includes the silly fish symbols that people put on their cars. If this offends you, then please show us all from the Bible where it says:

      1. It is ok to use idols in worship.
      2. It is ok to use or hang idols such as a cross, or fish to identify yourself as a Christain.

      Also, people should be able to identify you as a true Christian by your actions. No silly metal or plastic idols are necessary.

      June 30, 2010 at 10:27 am |
    • Geo

      @Albert- your apparent lack of knowledge of Christianity is very pedestrian. Every real Christian knows that the Cross is a symbol and not an IDOL of the biblical sense. The bible condemns us worshiping idols which are objects that are PRAYED TO. The Cross we use is a symbol and is NOT prayed to. It is used as inspiration and our prayers are directed towards God.

      Your knowledge of the bible is as weak as your understanding of the jeopardy your soul is in.

      July 1, 2010 at 5:20 am |
    • thatgirl


      1) an image or symbol that is an object of intense devotion, veneration, or worship is an idol. thus, the crucifix is an idol. God warns against even making an image before which people bow down – Exodus 20:3,4
      2) you may not pray to the cross but you pray through it. you may just use it as inspiration but you use it to worship. God asks as to worship Him in spirit – John 4:23,24
      thus, those who rely on images as aids to devotion are not worshiping God in spirit but they depend on what they can see with their physical eyes.


      July 1, 2010 at 1:07 pm |
    • Geo

      @ ThatGirl- Respectfully speaking, if you think the cross/crucifix is an idol, then you might as well give up your Bible. Do you not use it forspiritual inspiration and kneel before it? And utilize it to send prayers to God? Do you not say the words before you with the intention that God receive your prayers?

      July 1, 2010 at 4:10 pm |
    • Winkyb

      [JMJ]@geo-babey! You're being played! And you are wrong! The crucifix is not a symbol its REAL...all graces, redemption, salvation, sacraments, sacramnentals, clergy, religious, church, its authority, The Eucharist all gained by the Cross(Christ Corpus on the Cross). True Enemies of the Church and Satan know this...it is the Source/Sign/Hope of their Defeat. Sign yourself reverentially and always.

      July 1, 2010 at 7:20 pm |
  19. Jack

    This is just the same old argument between state's rights and federal rights – the feds want to have the power to enforce their world vision on the rest of us. Yet when its convenient they ignore their own law. You have all these muslims in Europe that are hostile to their governments and would impose Sharia if they could and try to bully others when they can (France, Netherlands, Italy) and of course it would be to difficult to protect the citizens of Europe from their misbehavior so it is ignored but that terrible cross – get rid of it – it offends the "eye"? BS

    June 30, 2010 at 10:14 am |
  20. ThinkRationally

    The comments on here really drive home the point about just how important separation of church and state are, I must say. The completely biased, illogical arguments sound so silly that sometimes it's hard to believe people posted them. Taking down a symbol equates to "imposing" the "religion of secularism"??? Oh, come on! How twisted does your logic have to be to conclude that the absence of a symbol for A is an imposition of B, especially when no symbol for B was ever present? This is an illogical attempt to equate atheism with religion by calling it a religion–in reality, this exposes the weakness of the religion side of the debate because it is an admission that the only way to debate this is to attempt to put both sides on equal footing (however ridiculous the arguments to do so sound).

    June 30, 2010 at 10:03 am |
    • Thorrsman

      As the reason this Atheist wants the crucifix removed is to impose her own religious vision, yes, this is imposing the religion of secularism on the Itialian people. They are not being allowed their own choice in the matter, this is being imposed upon them. We have seen ample evidence that the Muslim religion is catered to in Europe, and certainly the Atheist religion is catered to. (No, don't bother denying that your beliefs are a religion, you've made them so by your devotion and preaching of your faith) I've no reason to love the Catholic Church or any other branch of Christianity, but I want them to enjoy the same freedoms I demand for my own beliefs.

      June 30, 2010 at 10:11 am |
    • ThinkRationally

      Sorry, Thorrsman, yours is the ranting of someone scared to lose standing. There is nothing implicit in this woman's claim that implies she wants to instill in her lack of belief in the other children in the class. On the other hand, the crucifix is a clear religious symbol. I'm not debating anything about what the country of Italy has a right to do withing its own borders; I'm only debating the arguments posted here that somehow rationalize the removal of the crucifix as the imposition of something else, as well as some other silly arguments on here.

      I most certainly will deny that atheism is a religion. Atheists in general do not necessarily share anything else in common except a lack of belief in a supernatural being. The very label "atheist" is unnecessary–it merely allows arguments like yours, where you try to level the footing of the argument by calling atheism a religion. We don't have a word for lack of belief in leprechauns, or lack of belief in invisible dragons. If we had the word "aleprechaun", would you try to say that lack of belief in leprechauns is a religion? It would sound quite silly, don't you think? Well, that's how I view your argument that atheism is a religion. I will not allow you to use such twisted logic against me. It's reeks of desperation.

      June 30, 2010 at 10:40 am |
    • Thorrsman

      It is hard to meet Atheists on equal footing when they insist on lying about their motives.

      June 30, 2010 at 11:30 am |
    • ThinkRationally

      Oh, that's clever; are you accusing me of lying about something? If so, please state exactly what that is. Otherwise, this is at best a straw man argument and a baseless accusation.

      There's another straw man in your statement–that I have some kind of motive. Now perhaps you're referring to the woman in the article, but you're talking with me. What is my motive? What I'm doing is debating very questionable logic in these comments. While I think we would all be better off without religion, I have no motive to attempt to eliminate it. Many people that I know have strong beliefs, and I don't hold this against them.

      What I do have a problem with is when religion reaches into politics and legislation in such a way that beliefs that are not held by everyone are imposed on everyone. For example, though not necessarily imposed by law, I find the Catholic Church's resolute stand against condoms to be highly offensive, not only because it's silly, but because of the on-going grief it is causing in Africa. This kind of non-sense doctrine must not be allowed a foot-hold in legislative circles, and I will speak out against such things regardless of what straw men you attempt to put in front of me, or what circular logic, logical fallacies, or biased thinking you inject into the debate.

      June 30, 2010 at 11:52 am |
    • Thorrsman

      Was I too obstcure for you? Yes, you are lying. Atheist–the Capital "A" Atheists who feel the need to preach and promote their faith–generally do. They find it hard to admit the reasons for their staunch support of their new faith stems from the disappointment they suffered in their old faith–Christianity, for the most part. In a long enough conversation, they will generally let the truth slip out. It is usually the same thing in one form or anyother: Their God did not answer their prayers in the way they wanted. Thus, to punish Him, they withhold their belief in Him and agrue vehemently against His existance.

      June 30, 2010 at 12:47 pm |
    • ThinkRationally

      Third repost—it would be nice to know what’s going on. It’s up, then it comes down. Thorrsman, are you reporting me to get my post down or something? That’s twice you’ve called me a liar. I have nothing to “preach” except rational policy making. Atheism is not a religion. Why is it ok to preach your faith, but it’s not ok to discuss things in rational, secular terms? I’m not on here preaching, I’m here refuting what I consider to be inferior arguments. You’re on here setting up and tearing down little straw men as if they were valid arguments.

      You have applied some amateur psychology to me, and apparently all atheists, in setting up your latest straw man. You speak as though you know me, but you don’t. I was brought up Catholic, and there are no failings of faith that led me to where I am. It’s simply that the more I think about it, the more I realize that there are more plausible explanations and that I don’t need the comforts that faith provides.

      Your hypothesis that atheists are just getting back at a God who failed them is illogical. That would require that they believe in God, which would mean they aren’t atheists. Do you think all atheists are closet believers? If so, your amateur psychology has failed you again.

      BTW, research the straw man fallacy, because that’s mostly all your arguments consist of.

      June 30, 2010 at 10:30 pm |
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