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. truth777

    Exodus 20:4-6 and Deuteronomy 4:15-19 explain and give the true answer and this is what God thinks of it in Deuteronomy 27:16 and is a cross an idol? The answer is in the book of Jeremiah 10:1-6 and if you want further evidence then you can look also in book of Jeremiah 2:27-28. The cross was just an instrument of executing people in those days. If Jesus was killed by a sword, or a dagger, or maybe for example only(i know they didn't have electric chairs back then but just getting a point across).. an electric chair? would you carry around your necks a symbol of a sword or a dagger, or an electric chair or would you hang these things on ur walls? So are you truly Christian (Christ-Like) if you continue to disobey one of God's commandments? What is so hard to understand that a cross is a man-made object that is revered and idolized which God throughout the whole bible considers to be against his commandments? If Christ and his disciples were alive today they would be rebuking churches left and right like they did during the apostolic age when churches went out of line or were in the wrong. But obviously the true pillars of the church, Christ and his apostles, are not around to tell us what we are doing wrong. Before they all died there was only 1 church(1 Christian Denomination), one way to practice the teachings and examples of christ. So how did 1 way turn into 850+ denominations saying they teach the true teachings of christ? Did Jesus teach us 850 different ways to follow his examples and teachings? So when it comes to the question about crosses. Did Christ teach us to worship the cross or is this a man-made idea? If you can find any evidence in the bible that God accepts the practice of making an image or idol for worship then please show me.

    July 1, 2010 at 5:20 pm |
    • Joseph

      Check out Ex 25: 10-22
      Ex 25:33-36: 26:1
      Kgs 6:23-7:51,2 and Chr 3:10-4:22.
      If there are statues of sports heros, statesman, and scientests is that idolartry.
      What better way of honering God than to keep ones mind and body on Him. that is if one sings
      they sing praises of God
      ones is a writer they write praises of God.
      And if one is a sculpter or a artest what better way of praise than to show honer of God through ones work.

      July 1, 2010 at 7:41 pm |
  2. supervoid

    Randy: non-belief is not responsible for the atrocities of Communist states. Non-belief in a "god" has nothing to do with the political/economic dogma that caused the deaths of those under Communism. There is nothing about non-belief that can cause this. Belief in a political/economic system replaced the belief in religion. Communism became the religion... it became totalitarian (like religion) and dogmatic (like religion). Show me historical examples where non-belief in god has caused the same atrocious impact that religion has caused where agnosticism/atheism is THE CAUSE and not based on an alternative dogma such as Communism.

    July 1, 2010 at 3:56 pm |
  3. supervoid

    Oh, and don't come back with the atheism of Communist states because non-belief did not cause that suppression it was the religious fervor of embracing Communism that was to blame.

    July 1, 2010 at 1:40 pm |
    • Randy

      "Oh, and don't come back with the atheism of Communist states because non-belief did not cause that suppression it was the religious fervor of embracing Communism that was to blame."
      Haha, you've really twisted yourself into knots here. "Atheism doesn't kill people, because when it does, it's not really atheism, it's religion except without God or religious doctrine or that stuff." Or "Atheism doesn't creat evil because religion creates evil and atheism doesn't, so when atheism creates evil it's really religion, not atheism." Congratulations – you're an intellectual failure.

      July 1, 2010 at 3:34 pm |
  4. supervoid

    Anna the Athiest: Non-belief is not imposing. Until "non-belief" begins to be responsible for the suppression or genocide of religious people you can't say that it is as intolerant as religion. Non-belief only insists that if you are going to be religious, be respectful and keep it to yourself and stop forcing it on the public. If religion became more personal and less a force of cultural domination you'd find that people that do not believe in religion would have nothing to complain about! If you want respect you have to show respect. Currently there is no respect between the non religious and the religious because of the conflict that proselytism causes. If religions did not try to convert everyone then you would not have non-believers opposing it. Keep it to yourselves. There is no proof in the history of all of the abrahamic religions that it has caused so called believers to be more peaceful or made these people flourish. The most religious places on earth are constantly in a state of war or crippled by some conflict. Take a look at the nations with the highest percentage of non believers and compare and contrast (Scandinavia for instance).

    July 1, 2010 at 1:38 pm |
  5. Ben Cooper

    This is all the fault of aetheists and Muslims. Even Einstein had some belief in a higher power. Muslims, however, aren't that bright. All they know how to do is build car bombs and fly airplanes into buildings.

    July 1, 2010 at 1:33 pm |
  6. Danny Boy

    You want your kids to get a religous education and be taught what YOU believe...send them to private schools. Keep ALL religions out of public funding.....not just yours or mine...ALL. As Guiseppe stated...is that difficult to understand?

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

      [JMJ]@dannyboy....guesswhat??? More christains contribute to the public funding...you little cute knucklehead!

      July 1, 2010 at 3:59 pm |
  7. supervoid

    BMR: exactly. Ignored the nazis like the catholic church did. It can't help that the current pope was conscripted into Hitler Youth!

    July 1, 2010 at 12:56 pm |
  8. supervoid

    missadr: no one is forcing atheism on anyone. Christianity definitely fits in the "hatred" and "disrespect" category BTW... unless you've never read the bible or know Christian history it is full of acceptance for slavery and genocide and has been branded morally bankrupt by the crusades, inquisition, child abuse, imperialism/colonialism, etc. If the course/class has nothing to do with religion why should there be a religious symbol in the room? That makes as much sense as having an American flag in an Italian classroom about home economics. I know reason and rationale are not usually strong points for very emotional religious people but please try!

    July 1, 2010 at 12:33 pm |
  9. Darwin

    If they can have a crucifix, then they must also have my CAT GOD STATUE, and of course also the FLYING SPAGHETTI MONSTER, which would be so-oooo appropriate for pasta loving Italy! Christianity is a human-created fantasy, so by what right do they promote fantasy in schools???

    July 1, 2010 at 11:55 am |
    • Shrike

      Better be careful Darwin, the "good christians" already hate you for contradicting their version of the "real" history of mankind.

      July 1, 2010 at 12:01 pm |
    • Randy

      Is the Flying Spaghetti Monster some sort of calling card for dweebs whose entire worldviews are formed by TV, the Internet and books about elves and unicorns? The FSM is a pathetically inferior derivative of Russell's Celestial Teapot – a weak analogy to begin with, but one which at least had the redeeming qualities of creativity and originiality.

      I think we should keep the crucifixes up so that we can use them as hooks to hang comic book-loving thoughtsheep dorks like you from your by Harry Potter capes. You’re a failed human being who makes thought seem like a crime. I’ll bet your fat as well.

      July 1, 2010 at 3:05 pm |
    • missadr

      Randy, couldn't have said it better myself! LOL

      July 1, 2010 at 8:38 pm |
  10. bsbogus

    I am what you would probably consider an Atheist(even though I despise being grouped with some of those idiots), but I don't see the point in removing crusifixes. I don't get offended by crusifixes, really no different than a light fixture in the room to me. I do say this much about any organization though – if you want to put your religious items up on display(Like an advertisement), put them any where you want them.....just start paying taxes like the rest of us. It is time that these organizations are treated no different than any other business.

    July 1, 2010 at 11:52 am |
  11. Shrike

    Remove the meaningless symbols. Replace them with the Table of Elements chart. At least then the kids would learn something of value.

    July 1, 2010 at 11:48 am |
  12. missadr

    Sounds like yet another silly attempt to force people to be atheists. When are atheists going to learn that they can't force their beliefs on people? Religious symbols in school should be subject to the same rules as all symbols. If they represent hatred or disrespect, then they should be banned. Otherwise, it is wrong to force people to stop expressing themselves through symbolism. People should have the right to express their beliefs and their emotions. Symbolism is a non-disruptive way to do that and is appropriate for places like classrooms. If there are students of other faiths, then they should be allowed to display their symbols too, as long as they're not hateful or disrespectful symbols.

    July 1, 2010 at 11:27 am |
    • Shrike

      The crucifix is a symbol of hatred and disrespect. Just ask all of the belief systems and cultures that christianity has crushed and converted to the "right religion" over the centuries.

      July 1, 2010 at 11:56 am |
    • Randy

      ...and you nailed it. More atheist evangelism from internet busybodies who want to dictate how other people how to live their lives. Put buckle shoes and a silly hat on them and they're Puritans. Folks, anyone who tells you that the way to increase peace and freedom in the world is to stamp out a particular idea or belief system – that person just wants power over you. He wants you to cede your independence of thought and action to him. That guy can just as easily be atheist as a religious leader. Human nature, human foibles, human action -not ideas or beliefs- are what do damage in this world.

      July 1, 2010 at 2:50 pm |
  13. supervoid

    I would wager that many of the christians that feel that the crucifix is not "imposing" would change their tune if the sole religious symbol in the classroom were a symbol of any religion other than their own. How about islam? scientology? any various pagan belief symbology? better yet... what if there were a pentagram? Of course you would find it "imposing"! These symbols are a distraction... nothing more. Wanting to brainwash your children in the privacy of your own home so that they can continue the culture (face it, it's not about belief but about cultural conformity) is one thing, forcing others to accept your dogma and pathetic need for dominance is another. Stop wearing your beliefs and your shirt and just believe!

    July 1, 2010 at 11:17 am |
  14. EOO

    He who does not know when rain started to beat him will not know when the rain stops. How, when and why did these schools end up having crucifixes in their class roooms? Onething I know for sure is that no demons can withstands the Crucified Christ. To the Italians, "by his strips we are healed"

    July 1, 2010 at 10:53 am |
  15. Corvus1

    Atheists really need to get over this persecution complex they seem to have cultivated. Looking at a cross or other religious symbol won't hurt you.

    July 1, 2010 at 10:53 am |
    • BMR

      It's offensive AND it is violent imagery that only kooks like you xtians would expose innocent children to.

      July 1, 2010 at 10:59 am |
    • John

      Would you feel the same is a teacher chose to display a swastika?

      July 1, 2010 at 5:44 pm |
    • John

      Regarding that swastika:
      "It occurs mainly in the modern day culture of India, sometimes as a geometrical motif and sometimes as a religious symbol. It remains widely used in Indian religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism."
      Still want the freedom to display religious symbols in schools?

      July 1, 2010 at 5:47 pm |
  16. BMR

    Why do Christians feel the need to shove their religion down everyone else's throat? And by way of such graphic, violent imagery! A guy tacked up to a Roman torture device? What person would expose a child to such violence?? And Christians have the gall to say that because I'm an atheist and speak out against this, that I'm somehow shoving MY beliefs down THEIR throats! I wouldn't have to speak up if you people would keep your violent religions to yourself!

    July 1, 2010 at 10:50 am |
  17. stevie68a

    To quote Nietzsche, "There is not enough love and goodness in the world to give it to imaginary beings".
    My own thought is that the crucifix is a voodoo doll! Now, guess who!
    Religion is here to fool the people.Whatever good there is in it, can be had without religion.
    Sometime in the future, people will look back and say "they used to hang a little dead man on the wall for good luck, can you
    imagine?". Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

    July 1, 2010 at 10:38 am |
  18. texokie

    Has anyone noticed how many atheists and non-religious people turn up on these pages and work like hell to convince us that religion is irrelevant?
    Wouldn't "REASON" (may its name be praised) require simply ignoring religion?

    July 1, 2010 at 10:36 am |
    • BMR

      You want us to IGNORE the fact that you people are trying to force your religion on society?? Get real. What do you think would have happened if the rest of the world had ignored the Nazis? You people are just as much a threat to our freedoms as they were – but in a different way.

      July 1, 2010 at 10:52 am |
    • EOO

      Agreed with you. Will be supprised if those European Union judges are not Atheist clothed in Christian skin

      July 1, 2010 at 11:01 am |
  19. Anna the Athiest

    Athiests are just as intolerant as other religions. But of course they're "open minded". How so? Because YOU say so? If you find my religion offensive, then I find YOUR "athiesm" offensive. So in other words, NOBODY will be happy. We're not imposing our beliefs on you. In fact I find it the other way around.

    Before you keep calling the Christian "God" a "flying spagetti monster", take a good look in the bloody mirror. So what if they believe in someone that you can't see but they can? You used to believe in the Boogieman, Santa Clause, and the Easter Bunny. Some of you probably still do. The only people I find intolerant are the people who keep preaching that God doesn't exist and he's a flying spagetti monster. You want them to keep their religion to themselves, YOU must keep your beliefs to YOURSELF as well.

    July 1, 2010 at 10:33 am |
    • BMR

      First of all the Flying Spaghetti Monster is a satirical joke. Secondly, atheism isn't a religion. That would be like saying a lack of belief in Santa Claus – asantaclausism – is a religion. The only thing we are "shoving down your throat" is our wish to not live by your religion's rules and ideas. And also not to have our children exposed to the violent imagery of a man being executed on a cross. You people would be singing a different tune if Muslims or Hindus were doing what you are doing to the non-religious.

      July 1, 2010 at 10:57 am |
  20. Chris

    No religious symbol should be in any publicly funded building. END OF STORY. Christians....would it be ok it have the Muslim symbol in those classes? I bet the answer is no. So no you cant have yours if someone cant have theirs. End of Story.

    July 1, 2010 at 10:28 am |
    • BMR

      You can rest assured that the answer is "no". Christians are hypocrites. Would they allow the Humanism symbol? Or the Darwin fish symbol? No way! After all, you can't brainwash kids properly if they have choices!

      July 1, 2010 at 11:02 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.