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. No God \ Gods

    Its about time we remove all references to religions and forget the god scheme, science will take over, god was the way man tried to fill in the blanks in knowledge of the world. it was pretty easy back in the day to get people to believe in anything because they were uneducated, therefore gullible, how many wars were fought in the name of god\gods? think about that before you prey next time. the bible is the biggest lie in history (doesnt mather wich bible either its all fake.... people, wake up. this is the 21st century not the 13th!

    June 30, 2010 at 2:46 pm |
    • Thorrsman

      Why should your faith force all others to hide?

      June 30, 2010 at 4:13 pm |
    • JörmungandrsPeople

      @Thorrsman Why should your faiths take precedence over fact? Why should your religions be absolved of providing evidence or admitting they have been wrong? Should hope be more important then determination? Should gullibility matter more than accountability? Should I waste the time of my children to teach them every religion instead the tools needed to thrive just so you can clutch your dreams of immortality?

      June 30, 2010 at 4:23 pm |
    • Thorrsman

      Funny thing, JörmungandrsPeople, but I've never seen Asatru beliefs held up above any others. You talk a great deal about facts, and yet you can not prove the basic tenet of your arguement: That there are no Gods. You demand evidence of MY belief? Provide evidence of your own first.

      June 30, 2010 at 7:49 pm |
    • Geo

      The more that science delves into creation, the more scientists are compelled to believe that there is God as a creator.

      July 1, 2010 at 4:43 am |
  2. fishkitty

    So this woman goes to a French court of this European coalition? Maybe she should move to France. She is the only one "imposing" her paranoia on everyone else. Symbols, whether religious or cultural, are often an integral and colorful part of our history and that of a country. Someone, somewhere, will ALWAYS find a way to be "offended" by SOMETHING. Take away everything that potentially offends someone and we will be left with NOTHING. Where I live, we have "totem poles" – in public places, and in front of buildings too. I find them ugly, crude representations of primitive symbols of "spirit animals" etc. I hate seeing them. But I don't demand they be taken down.

    I would find the absence of any expression of religious symbols, art, cultural symbols, regional differences etc, VERY sterile and offensive. At some point, people have to get real.

    June 30, 2010 at 2:12 pm |
  3. Thorrsman

    So you have no actual belief in the Asatru way, you just use a line you've heard as another stick to beat your former companions in Christianity, eh? How typical.

    June 30, 2010 at 2:10 pm |
    • JörmungandrsPeople

      @Thorrsman So you have no actual response or evidence? Who said I was ever a Christian ye of ad hominem and assumptions?
      "Pedophile? That's a big word for a six year old?" – Mohammad talking to Aisha. That make me a Muslim?

      June 30, 2010 at 2:41 pm |
    • Thorrsman

      JörmungandrsPeople, In the West, your sort are ALWAYS disappointed Christians trying to punish the God that didn't give you a pony. Or whatever prayer your God didn't answer in the fashion you wanted. Are you going to claim that this anger of your comes from another source?

      June 30, 2010 at 4:17 pm |
    • JörmungandrsPeople

      Thorrsman who defines west? I never wanted a pony and I earn what I deserve. I never wasted my time praying. It's pretty narcissistic to ask that the laws of the universe be annulled on my behalf and if I were to believe then I would have to confess that I'm unworthy of even asking. Those are the rules. Also, I've never seen prayer work for your 'sort'. Did prayer stop that oil spill in the 'west'? We're still waiting. Am I angry and you sure that's what I'm angry about? More assumptions and hate, that's all you have. Keep the laughs coming.

      June 30, 2010 at 4:39 pm |
  4. Lux Ferre

    Public spaces = no religious symbols. Christianity/Catholicism is not the original religion of the region anyway. If you want to hang a cross in a classroom, save it for your religious schools. Non-Christians should not have to bear the continued brunt of all of "Western" Civilization and their continued obsession with a religion from the "Eastern" Civilization. When is the West going to wake up and realize that White Jesus lovers = Eurocentrics = Racists?

    June 30, 2010 at 1:46 pm |
    • fishkitty

      Let me get this straight. Are you calling the Jews and Italians "western" or "eastern"? There are a lot of non-white Christians who would find your remark racist and downright wrong as well. You don't even make sense here Lux, so how about you just live and let live?

      June 30, 2010 at 2:22 pm |
  5. JörmungandrsPeople

    @Ryan How about: My me, my me why have I forsaken myself?
    Eli eli sabacthani.

    @Thorrsman Do you have a specific number for most? I've heard Asatru use that joke and it was considered humor. Also to your last pathetic rebuttal: Adherents to religions support supernatural claims therefore the burden of proof is their responsibility. I've made no claims, I asked for evidence for your claim(s). We're still waiting for your demonstrable and reproducible evidence.

    June 30, 2010 at 1:44 pm |
    • Thorrsman

      No, you are hoping for something you can twist to your own ends.

      June 30, 2010 at 4:14 pm |
  6. Thorrsman

    Most polite Asatru don't use that line.

    June 30, 2010 at 1:20 pm |
  7. John Doe

    I worship many things and many things are a symbol of my religion. A piece of rock, head of dead animals, etc.. etc..
    If crucifix symbol is allowed to be on that wall then any and all religious symbols should be alllowed on there also. We're talking thousands of symbols here. Don't take that crucifix down but put your symbols on that wall too.

    "when one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity.
    When many people suffer from a delusion it is called religion"

    June 30, 2010 at 12:58 pm |
    • Thorrsman

      Name that relgion.

      June 30, 2010 at 1:03 pm |
  8. mel

    I think religious schools, led by people who share a religious ethos, even if they are funded by the government should be allowed to keep signs of that, eg a crucifix, same goes for schools run along humanist values (a nice icon of Dawkins could go on the wall). There should be limits on that – the government should insist that these schools don't teach hatred or prejudice.

    June 30, 2010 at 12:56 pm |
    • relians

      religion schools? isn't that and oxymoron?

      June 30, 2010 at 2:47 pm |
    • relians

      religion schools? isn't that an oxymoron?

      June 30, 2010 at 2:47 pm |
  9. JörmungandrsPeople

    Thorrsman do you have any demonstrable or reproducible evidence for any supernatural beings or an existence after death? We're still waiting. Buddhists are atheists, I'm neither. I'm a secularist – the view that religious considerations should be excluded from civil affairs or public education.

    June 30, 2010 at 12:50 pm |
    • Thorrsman

      Believers need no proof, doubters accept none.

      June 30, 2010 at 12:52 pm |
    • Scott

      @Thorrsman – And that is the crux of the issue between the two sides. "Believers need no proof" is an indication of faith. This faith is all well and good when you use faith to make decisions in your life. But using faith in the realms of education and politics is where some of us are concerned.

      June 30, 2010 at 1:06 pm |
    • Thorrsman

      Scott, why be concerned? Near to every politician out their has used his faith as a reason to vote him into office, with the understanding that his faith will guide his decisions. In education? The more you study either history OR science, the more you realize what a large part faith plays in both. You have faith that the records cited in history texted or correct and unbiased (when they are all too often neither). Some science is cut and dried, some depends on faith. The Origins of Life question, as an example, or what is called Darwin's Theory of Evolution (though many others had a hand in shaping our current version).

      June 30, 2010 at 1:19 pm |
  10. 4686868

    do some research brainwashed ignorant one......THORRSMAN.

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

      Well, as least you managed to avoid the double-negative this time, though it WAS a short sentence.

      June 30, 2010 at 12:51 pm |
  11. lilly

    Hello. we are talking about Italy here, and the right of Italians to have crosses in their schools. We are not talking about putting crosses in schools across north america.

    June 30, 2010 at 12:29 pm |
    • Thorrsman

      Correct as can be. And also about an extra-governmental agency imposing the will of the minority upon a sovereign nation.

      June 30, 2010 at 12:40 pm |
  12. TinaK

    There are many issues with this story, but the main problem with the whole thing is that the Catholic church is still trying to dominate the lives of those living in Italy as they had for centuries with their patrimonial (fatherly) symbols and idealism.

    The one even 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."

    If I remember correctly, and this is a well told story – Jesus, not God, gave up his life on the cross and it was a symbol to remind us that he gave his life for our sins. In my entire Catholic upbringing I have never heard the crucifix represents 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." I get that the Bible teaches us these things, but not a crucifix.

    Lastly, "How could someone not share such a symbol?" Um, well if you're not Catholic or a Christian of any sort, the crucifix means nothing to you just as a head scarf for a Muslim woman doesn't mean a thing to anyone who is Catholic. Many Western cultures believe the head scarf (or even a burka) is archaic and not allowing woman to express themselves. How can a diverse country, such as Italy, cram their beliefs down the throats of those who do not share those same beliefs? Get rid of them from the classroom and separate church and state.

    Perhaps the Catholic priests in Italy should worry more about the pedaphile atrocities going on around the world instead of a symbol. Then again, doesn't one of the Ten Commandments discuss this? "You shall not make for yourself a carved image–any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth."

    I'm just sayin'!!!

    June 30, 2010 at 12:27 pm |
    • Joesph

      Jesus is God Tina, When asked who he was he responded "I AM" which is the name of God from the burning bush as appeared to Moses. That is why they tried to kill him.
      And the graven images God commanded the Ark of the Covenent covered with images, and Moses in the desert was commanded to make a serpent in bronze and place it on a pole.

      June 30, 2010 at 1:01 pm |
    • TinaK


      You are terribly mistaken and have your stories mixed up. Jesus was born much later than the time of Moses to even be considered "I AM" at the burning bush. The stations of the cross are The Father, Son (being Jesus) and the Holy Spirit. Read the Bible again and you will see that God gave his only Son to Mary. Jesus never claimed to be God, just his Son who was born to wash away our sins and died on the cross (thus the crucifix) to show testimony to that cause . Get your stories straight and correct before responding. Remember, I said I was Catholic. 12 years of Catholic education: I think I know what I'm talking about – it was instilled in us every day in school and every Sunday during Mass.

      June 30, 2010 at 2:22 pm |
  13. lee

    They should put up all the names of the millions of kids abused thru the centuries instead! Separation of Church and State!

    June 30, 2010 at 12:23 pm |
  14. stormy miller

    a cross is a religous symbol for the christian religion. if people want to display them at their homes or churches or on their t-shirts, that is their bussiness. but the cross or other religious symbols have no place in a public school. it is imposing a religion on those attending the school. i agree they should be banned from being displayed

    June 30, 2010 at 12:22 pm |
  15. Jonathan

    The bible firmly teaches that God is a spirit, (John 4:24) and does not dwell in anything handmade nor needs attending to.(Acts 17:24).
    Jehovah, the God of the bible, I'll call him by name since I know Him personally(Jer 9:24), takes very real issue with worship that includes instruments that symbolize and/or represent gods or deities... He made this very clear at Exo 20:4, Deut 4:15, 1Cor 6:14-17 and 1John 5:21...

    One of the greatest issues Jehovah takes with idols or instruments used during worship is that, those who are using them are no longer worshiping out of faith...but worshiping out of sight.
    “We are walking by faith, not by sight.”—2 CORINTHIANS 5:7.

    Walking by faith requires implicit trust in God. "Without faith it is impossible to please [him] well, for he that approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.Heb 11:6

    It did not work out for the Israelites after they were set free from Egypt when Aaron made the golden calf while Moses was on the mountain, and since God does not change (Mal 3:6, James 1:17) it certainly will not work out for those 'nominal' Christians who use idols as part of their worship..Matt 7:21-23


    June 30, 2010 at 12:22 pm |
    • JörmungandrsPeople

      You know Yahweh's avatar personally?

      2 Thessalonians 2 : 11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie.

      Matthew 10 : 34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

      June 30, 2010 at 12:31 pm |
    • thatgirl

      well said!!!

      June 30, 2010 at 12:49 pm |
    • thatgirl

      That's why there's 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 12:52 pm |
    • Geo

      The problem with your whole premise is that the cross is an 'idol' in the biblical sense....it is not...it is a symbol of Christianity. We do not pray to it. We use it as inspiration and our prayers are directed to God.

      July 1, 2010 at 4:48 am |
    • thatgirl


      you're missing the points:
      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.

      so however you justify the use of the cross, it is just clearly against the commandments of God


      July 1, 2010 at 12:27 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 for spiritual 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?

      If you cannont defend the cross when they take it from millions, who will be left to help you keep your King James Bible when they feel it offends THEM (Islam)?

      Should someone like you who does not understand my religion dictate how I need to worship?

      July 1, 2010 at 4:23 pm |
    • Winkyb

      [ JMJ ]@thatgirl...Jehovah Witness do not believe Jesus is God. Are you Jehovah Witness???

      July 1, 2010 at 8:55 pm |
    • thatgirl


      My mom has become one and I'm already studying with them. And I am amazed by what I'm learning! They're really teaching Bible truths. I've learned, among other things, that Jehovah is the name of the true God (Psalms 83:18, Isaiah 12:2 and 26:4, etc.) and that Jesus is His son (John 10:36, Matthew 16:15-17, etc.) (also read John 17:3, John 20:17), and I've also learned Their purpose for mankind (Luke 23:43, Daniel 2:44, Revelation 21:4, etc.).

      You know, I am shocked to learn that the beliefs of so many so-called Christians today and the teachings of so many religious leaders are not found in the Bible such as the trinity, hellfire, purgatory, immortality of the soul, use of images, saints, and whatnot. They are NOT really taught in the Bible!!!

      But I guess this has to be my last post. My mom says what I said is enough already since this may lead to debate, which is not right. It is more beneficial if I just personally speak to those are really interested to really know the Bible. I commend you for your time in this topic though. It shows you mind important matters in life, which other people do not.

      Have a nice day everyone!

      July 2, 2010 at 5:44 am |
  16. rivirivi

    I always made my sad to look at the cross and imagine the torture poor Jesus went through by the Romans. If he really said : "Forgive them Father because they do not know what they are doing." He was so right, we humans still do not what we are doing to each other, to our only home beautiful Earth. I believe his words were: "Forgive them Father because they are all absolutely idiotic and stupid." Jesus was right till this day. He never said he was God, he always said he was the son of man, and that we were all children with God and that we were one with God. Jesus is still right till this day. Except, for some weird old people who started saying that he was God. If God exists and is infinite, limitless, then everything -including us, from the smallest particle to the biggest clump of multi-universes exist WITHIN and separation is impossible. Only separatistic greedy humans separate their stupid groups from the other stupid groups AS IF.

    June 30, 2010 at 12:19 pm |
  17. Daniel

    Jesus was crucified for his crime againts Rome sedition, not for love or forgiveness of sin. I am surprised how many people really think Jesus was a real person. Like Santa claus and the easter bunny Jesus is not real.

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

      Well, if you we to actually READ the Christian's Bible, their Messiah was crucified at the insistence of the Jewish leadership. The local Roman governor DID NOT wish to make a martyr of what he viewed as a minor religious rebel within the Jewish faith. Further, the fact that the Jews wanted Jesus dead was, again according to the Christian beliefs, all a part of their God's plan. A sacrifice of himself, to himself, for the sake of his favored creation among men, despite their rejection of him.

      June 30, 2010 at 12:35 pm |
    • Geo

      How do we know you are real?

      July 1, 2010 at 4:52 am |
  18. eamon sheeran

    Not Italy, but the Italian government led by Berlusconi, so well known for his saintliness. Religion in the churches,mosques,synagogues,please.Science and education in the schools,if you don´t mind.

    June 30, 2010 at 12:13 pm |
  19. Art

    john smith.. So you are in favor of illegal immigration? Explain that to the family of the rancher that was shot on his own property by an illegal immigrant, or the families of houses that were vandalized and burglarized by illegal immigrants or the families of the kidnap victims. Yes, Phoenix is now the kidnap capital of the country and second only to Mexico City as the kidnap capital of the western hemisphere. Some people are clueless.

    June 30, 2010 at 12:05 pm |
  20. Rae

    If we are not to have religious symbols in public places then why was there an international out-cry against the Taliban destroying the 2000-year-old Buddha statues in Afghanistan that were located along the cliffs in a public area? Why is it not okay to be rid of the Buddha statues but it's okay to be rid of Italy's tradition to have a crucifix in a public place? This doesn't make sense!

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

      Really, I mean 2 dollar crosses in the classrooms of a secular state are exactly the same as ancient 100ft stone monuments in a hillside that were virtually unique in the world. While we're at it, let's also compare it to blowing up the Pyramids of Giza, huh?

      Remember that the statues were blown up by religious zealots trying to eliminate opposition to their own religion.

      July 2, 2010 at 12:02 am |
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About this blog

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.