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. Andy

    Freedom from religion is a basic human right!

    June 30, 2010 at 12:03 pm |
    • Thorrsman

      Naw, that is just something made up by the Radical Atheists who exchanged their Christian beliefs for another religion.

      June 30, 2010 at 12:23 pm |
  2. 4686868

    Thorrsman, it is quite obvious that you have never had no dealings with the Sumerian tablets and seals that predate the hoax called christianity. Your Gods are the Annunaki/those who descended from heaven to earth. They came here over half a million years ago to mine the gold and created a hydbrid slave species to do the work. Educate youself.

    June 30, 2010 at 12:00 pm |
    • Thorrsman

      Your use of the double negative argues against you having much in the way of intellectual ability. Add to that the fact that your erroneously indentify me as a Christian, and I can see no reason to give an credence to anything you post.

      June 30, 2010 at 12:26 pm |
    • Frogstomp

      How quaint of you to attempt to debate religion without having a thorough understanding of Sumerian tablets and seals.

      June 30, 2010 at 3:28 pm |
  3. Zuriel

    How about this for a radical idea, the majority rule? If the majority of people want the cross taken out of schools, then fine. But, if the majority want the cross displayed then so be it. I'm sick and tired of the vocal minorities in every country demanding that everyone else change to suit them. They demand tolerance from others, while being completely intolerant themselves. The majority of the population should be able to define the culture and laws of the countries they live in. I live in the US and I sure don't agree with every thing my tax dollars are spent on, but if the majority do then I'm SOL. I don't whine about it or file lawsuits to stop the majority, I just accept it or work to get my view to eventually become the majority view.

    June 30, 2010 at 11:57 am |
    • nachooooo libre

      Dumb comment... of course you dont care about the minorities.... if your in the majority.... what if the majority is muslem and then they decide to elimiate Christianity.... ha ... read your quran

      June 30, 2010 at 12:00 pm |
    • Zuriel

      Nacho, but as long as we live in a democracy, the majority of the population will decide what is legal or illegal, and their laws will reflect the majority's definition of right and wrong. I sure don't agree with abortion as a form of birth control, in fact I find it offensive, but it is currently a legal procedure and will stay legal as long as the majority believes it should be. Or we could just go back to a monarchy and let one person decide everything for us.

      June 30, 2010 at 12:29 pm |
  4. nachooooo libre

    School should be school.... its one of those "Christian" things.... but what if someone demanded the muslem tree moon combo symbol or the star of David .... or some wierd scientology crap? All would object.... and who really gives any thought to what the vatican thinks about it.... men in dresses.... btw ... i am Christian

    June 30, 2010 at 11:57 am |


    June 30, 2010 at 11:57 am |
  6. Art

    I am a firm believer in the separation of church and state. However, this case is a great argument against belonging to the EU or any other organization that takes away the sovereignty of a nation.

    June 30, 2010 at 11:56 am |
  7. thatgirl

    To all of you,
    No need to argue where to place the crucifix. It shouldn't even be used by Christians or any one else in the first place.

    Worship of images (including the crucifix) is prohibited – Exodus 20:4,5
    Idols (including the crucifix) are incapable of anything; useless – Psalms 115:4-8
    Flee from idolatry; guard against use of idols (that includes the crucifix) – 1 Corinthians 10:14; 1 John 5:21

    June 30, 2010 at 11:54 am |
    • Geo

      @ThatGirl- You don't have to believe in the cross or the crucifix but for millions of believers, it is important. You should be the first to fight for the right of Catholics to worship in the way that is fit for them. Because someday, they may say that you reading from your King James Bible in public is offensive.

      July 1, 2010 at 4:16 pm |
    • Winkyb

      [JMJ] @Thatgirl do you believe in His Incarnation: that Christ has come, in His Death: that Christ Risen, in His Resurrection: that Christ will come again; that the Trinity exist? This tenet is required of all christians.

      July 1, 2010 at 9:34 pm |
  8. atom spectre

    Religion has no place in schools just as facts have no place in church.

    June 30, 2010 at 11:53 am |
  9. Sniffit

    "Firstly, If one's religion believes in public profession of the faith (of their community), ie if it doesn't believe in privatised religion as you are trying to impose, then such measures are never acceptable."

    Hey genius, Jesus spoke quite directly to that point and sided with the silent true-believers, not the noisy public proclaimers (I forget the exact quote to be honest, but that's the gist of it).

    Note: Italy's another one of those nations with a history of world-class fascism.

    June 30, 2010 at 11:51 am |
    • Thorrsman

      Actually, Italy is where Fascism was invented. Remember hearing about Mussioini? That life-long Socialist? He is generally credited with inventing Fascism, what he viewed as an improved form of Socialism.

      June 30, 2010 at 11:56 am |
    • Sniffit

      Who the heck did you think I was talking about? Of course it was Mousilini. You need to check YOURSELF oh "one who likes talking about socialism." Socialism is far left on the political spectrum and fascism is as far right as you can go before reaching autoctracy. Equating the two is like trying to equate Rice Krispy treats with Kobe beef. But that's ok...we all know Hitler was able to fool the masses into equating them, which he did very successfully, and now we have th elikes of Limbaugh and Beck and Boehner fooling you people that the two can be equated. Go figure. Newsflash: THEY CANNOT.

      June 30, 2010 at 12:06 pm |
    • Thorrsman

      Incorrect. Il Duce was a Socialist all his life. His creation of Fascism–which he viewed as an improved Socialism–did not suddenly move him from Far Left to Far Right. THAT false political paradigm comes from the Far Left AFTER the bloody failure of "Improved Socialism".

      June 30, 2010 at 12:30 pm |
  10. 4686868

    Christianity/xianism is a hoax against the Gentiles/Pagans. The whole religion was taken from ancient text from Babylon, Mesopotania, Egypt , india. The Jews stole everything and corrupted it and they have you all under a program right now. If any of you would do just a litte research you would see that your fictictious Jesus was preceded by 18 plus pagan saviours/gods. All of them were born on dec 25, virginbirth, crucified, resurrected ect. You would see that your 10 commandment come directly out of the Egyptian Book Of the Dead spell number 125. You would know that your crucifix is actually the shorthand version of the cross of the Zodiac and you Jesus is actually the SUN. IGNORANCE is bliss here on the planet earth. Religion is a virus upon this planet and it WILL BE REMOVED IN DUE TIME!!

    June 30, 2010 at 11:51 am |
    • Thorrsman

      So are you a believer in the ancient Egytian Gods or merely another rabid Atheist looking for a stick to beat your former relgion?

      June 30, 2010 at 11:53 am |
    • nachooooo libre

      Where in the book of the dead is spell 125? Never seen any of the numbered? Failuree to answer discredits all you havcve said

      June 30, 2010 at 12:14 pm |
    • lilly

      If religion is a virus, than I wonder how the muslims and jews are going to feel about it being removed in due time. Or are we just speaking and discriminating against Christian beliefs. All this will only strengthen the Christian faith. And what is wrong in believing in something good? Besides, all religions were created to control the masses, so the story goes.

      June 30, 2010 at 12:22 pm |
    • nachooooo libre

      I retract any validity to this morons post.... the book of the dead does contain some really interesting stuff.... even though its dated to 1200 BC ... which post dates moses/....

      June 30, 2010 at 12:24 pm |
  11. Schira

    The crucifix, in this forum, has been described repeatedly as a symbol of love and selflessness.

    Imagine yourself as a child, completely unexposed to Christianity. Your classroom is a place established for knowledge and learning and questions and answers. In it hangs a little alabaster man being tortured to death. Would that evoke strong feelings and curiosity? It is apparent the statuette didn't place itself on those timbers. Without awareness of the Christ story, the crucifix is a testament to human cruelty and intolerance.

    With a child's aphorism for the words 'how' and 'why,' it is doubtless you would seek reasons for this grisly display. It's possible you may receive an explanation that a man long ago expressed unpopular ideas only to be mercilessly silenced. Maybe your teacher would praise the glory of the contemporary freedom to express yourself, but it’s more likely that the answer revolves around concepts of self-sacrifice, sin, and Heaven.

    The indelible image of a dying man is thus brought to ingrain the popular Christian speculation of an answer to an unanswerable question. A question that rattles, sometimes wildly, in the mind of someone new to this world: ‘What happens to us when we die?’

    June 30, 2010 at 11:50 am |
  12. jj

    Do Italian schools teach evolution? If they aren't, I say there are bigger issues than the cross in the classroom.
    furthermore, if the Vatican is considered its own country – then perhaps Giovanni Lajolvo should have the crosses kept in his country's public schools ;).

    June 30, 2010 at 11:40 am |
  13. racnem

    Jesus didn't even die on a cross, it was a pole – a commom form of death sentences for criminals of his day. Do some research on the origin of the the cross. It predates Christ by thousands of years.

    June 30, 2010 at 11:40 am |
  14. dandiwer

    who cares religion is over. god free youth.

    June 30, 2010 at 11:37 am |
    • Thorrsman

      Not all youth are Godless, for which we can thank the Gods.

      June 30, 2010 at 11:40 am |
  15. Bea

    I am from an Italian family. When I go in Italy I see nuns in the streets, statues of Mary in every corner, amazing painting in churches. I am not a Catholic but I accept the fact that all of this is part of the Italian culture and it shows in the secular world (like schools) but doesn't impose itself. I wouldn't mind a crucifix in my kids classroom. Bible studies without my permission would be another story. Italian people are (usually) very tolerant. It's not like in the US where everything as to be black or white. A little tolerance on both side of the argument would be more fruitful. Tolerance?...does this word still exist?

    June 30, 2010 at 11:30 am |
  16. Martin

    It always amazes me how resistant people are to change, whether it's votes for women, civil rights for all, or something comparatively trivial such as a ban on smoking in restaurants and bars. Once it's done and a little time goes by, everyone forgets what all the fuss was about. Like it or not, we live in secular societies where we respect the rights of people to hold their own religious views but prefer to keep religion out of official public life and official buildings. No one can deny that a crucifix is a religious symbol, even if they maintain that its message is one that should appeal to everyone.

    June 30, 2010 at 11:26 am |
    • Thorrsman

      No, we do not live in such a world. The Atheist may like to claim that such is true, as does the Socialist and Communist, but it is in fact, not true at all. Most of the European countries still have holidays for every Saint you can name–and many most of us have never heard of–holidays embraced by the Socialist workers while they decry the religion that recognizes those Saints.

      June 30, 2010 at 11:39 am |
  17. chris

    This is just dumb, Almost as dumb as arguing that the cross is brainwashing these kids. Listen, if the image of a cross is all it takes for these people to turn to christianity, then that says a lot about their intelligence. If you put up a star of David I'm not going to automatically think i should be jewish. Get over it, I imagine these kids are smart enough to form their own opinions on religion

    June 30, 2010 at 11:21 am |
  18. UH60L

    "the crucifix, an image that cannot but be the emblem of a universally shared humanity"

    Thus the problem with trying to talk to many, if not most, religious persons. They only see their own perspective and are typically not willing to believe someone else may have a different and possibly more accurate persepective than they have.

    You can't change history, but you can impact the future. I say, let's move towards a more common sense approach to life, and stop killing each other over something that may or may not exist. regardless of your beliefs, in this, human life, you get only one shot. Use it wisely.

    June 30, 2010 at 11:14 am |
    • Siara

      The crucifix is YOUR symbol. It is not universal. Difficult though this may be to understand, most people in the world do NOT accept this as their symbol. How about if we put a Star of David symbol on the wall? That's my symbol of a mutually shared humanity. How about the Buddhist symbol or the Hindu symbol or the Muslim symbol or the Shinto symbol? Those are signs of international humanity too.

      June 30, 2010 at 11:34 am |
    • Geo

      @Siara- You can be sure that in Israel, they have a Star of David in their classrooms...In India they have their gods in their classrooms, in China the image of Mao, in Saudi Arabia a Koran centrally located in the classrooms...so what can't Italy, the birthplace of modern Christianity have crosses in THEIR classrooms???

      July 1, 2010 at 4:58 am |
  19. Tony

    Is it the two sons of this obviously anti-religious woman who object to the crucifix tradtionally placed on the classroom wall or is it the woman herself who objects? Why shoulld the anit-chrisitan beliefs of this one woman decide for the majority?....and for many other countires in Europe so it seems ? If this is a parochial school system that her two sons attend then she should have the option to take them out of this school and send them to a secular school. OR the decision to continue to have the crucifix in the calssrooms should be left for a public referendum vote. Sounds like this angry woman has an axe to grind and is carrying a huge chip on her shoulders! She seems to be the Italian version of our Madeline Mary O'Hara who was singlehandedly responsible for having all prayers removed from our schools here in the USA and we all know how she met her fate!

    June 30, 2010 at 11:14 am |
  20. a.

    I'm so sick of crosses everywhere... take them all down!

    June 30, 2010 at 11:13 am |
    • Thorrsman

      This may come as a complete shock, but the world does not revolve around you. Get over it.

      June 30, 2010 at 11:29 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.