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. hatim

    OLFRANK: is that why minarates are being banned in most of Europe??? So you want to protect your faith and its symbols but don't mind other symbols being banned??? In actuality its even worse, a minarate is not a symbol that is hung in a class room but its actually part of a mosque, so imagine a whole continent (Europe) saying no more bells attached to any churches!!! Thats discrimination against a religion!!!

    June 29, 2010 at 5:54 pm |
    • jason

      You are wrong, minarettes are only banned in Switzerland.

      June 29, 2010 at 5:56 pm |
  2. jason

    And btw to all you catholics: last time I checked, God forbade IDOL WORSHIP!

    June 29, 2010 at 5:52 pm |
    • dan

      Jason, this is a typical argument of protestants.
      However, there is on the Bilbe, mentioned, that God told ordered the Hebrews to build a monument (the one that when people looked at, they'd be healed from the snake bite).
      What's more, in Catholicism, there is no addoration of images. They have been long used as a way of teaching. Also, they represent. If you have a picture of someone you like at home, that doesn't mean you worship that picture. You use it as a way of remembering the person. It actually helps you. A child eho cries holding the picture of the mother, does that because she is thinking of her mother and the picture (as its name says) helps on that job.

      June 29, 2010 at 6:43 pm |
    • TinaK

      Exactly, and AMEN to that.

      June 30, 2010 at 2:10 pm |
  3. Nicole

    If Jesus were executed 50 years ago, they would be displaying little electric chairs instead of crosses.

    June 29, 2010 at 5:49 pm |
    • jason

      And they would be carrying neclaces with little electric chairs around their necks 🙂

      June 29, 2010 at 5:51 pm |
    • james


      Perhaps if he carried his electric chair through a city first – but I suspect you're largely ignorant of history, or geography and can't likely find Italy on a map, let alone understand anything about their historic ties to Christianity.

      June 29, 2010 at 6:02 pm |
    • Vizier

      if you might never born I think your parents might be more happy

      June 29, 2010 at 6:22 pm |
  4. hatim

    ROGER: what does Islam have anything to do with this??? why do you have to bring it up and try to blame ISLAM for everything and anything?? ISLAM was not mentioned in the article and has NOTHING to do with this legal litigation!!

    June 29, 2010 at 5:49 pm |
  5. jason

    Ban this pagan symbol already! Its sickening to see how paganism is so deeply rooted in society, especially christendom!

    June 29, 2010 at 5:45 pm |
    • james

      Christianity is not Pagan – that has been established in the West for over 2000 years.

      Also – wanting to ban the local spiritual faiths idols in fact was tried already. When the Soviets rose to power in the 1920's that's the first thing they did. They burned Churches en masse, starved entire nations, and sent dissenters to prison. Much the same was done in China under the same 'ism'.

      The greatest mass murders in history – by far and away – were committed in the name of 'banning religious symbols' and other such things.

      June 29, 2010 at 6:00 pm |
    • jason

      I dont think you read my comment properly. I was referring to CHRISTENDOM, not christianity...

      June 29, 2010 at 6:01 pm |
    • james

      Ok – fair enough – you caught me on a technicality 🙂

      June 29, 2010 at 6:07 pm |
    • Papi Mike

      Jason...you are a hater!

      June 29, 2010 at 7:01 pm |
    • Anie

      Actually, Christianity is based on Pagan stories and celebrates Pagan holidays. Jesus' rising is just a retelling of Horus' rising. The Ten Commandments are just a rehashing of the Code of Hammurabi. Easter is Ostara, Christmas is Winter Solstice, All Saint's Day is really Samhain. There is a reason why all the major Christian holidays are around Solstices. All the major ritual icons are Pagan, too: The Blood of Christ (Blood=Water), the Body of Christ (Bread=Earth), Censers=Air, Candles=flame. I could go on . . . but you probably need to go do some research before you reply . . .

      June 29, 2010 at 7:02 pm |
    • frozengirl

      Anie, I believe the similar holidays/traditions were intentional. It's easier to get the Pagans to celebrate Christ's birth if you hold the celebration of Christ's birth during Yule, etc. etc. Tell them that their religious symbol for _______ can also stand for ______ and you at least get the facade of followers.

      June 30, 2010 at 3:19 am |
    • Tony

      frozen... so your basically saying that the christians 'stole' pagan rituals so they can be bamboozled into believing your version of a religious idealogy? Yeah, that gives plenty of credit to christianity.

      June 30, 2010 at 8:50 am |
  6. Darlene Buckingham

    The cross is a morbid symbol that inspires fear and hatred. Its time to find a symbol that represents life and get away from violence.

    June 29, 2010 at 5:44 pm |
  7. Cavarzere

    Hi, We are 12 years old and go to public school in Italy and we want to let you know that no one in our class really pays any attention to the cross on the wall. Most of the time we don't even notice that it is there. We are too busy studying and doing our work. There are more important things to think about.

    June 29, 2010 at 5:44 pm |
    • jason

      funny that you have the time to write on here...

      June 29, 2010 at 5:45 pm |
    • jason

      apparantly Randy doesnt get my point

      June 29, 2010 at 5:50 pm |
    • Dave M

      Of all the comments here, I think you have put the entire issue in context, Cavarzere. I do not support any particular religion, but I see no harm in the inclusion of locally relevant historical symbols or pictures in classrooms. A classroom is a place to learn – it shouldn't be sterilized by the total removal of all symbols. Do we really want our children taught in pure white rooms with no symbols of our history or external environment? Fill our schools with all manner of humankind symbols. Encourage the students to ask what they mean so they may truely understand all of the ways of the world. The intelligent, driven students like Cavarzere will be better for it. Those not so intelligent will end up like ... Roger

      June 29, 2010 at 8:43 pm |
  8. Joe

    I think it should be completely fine to hang a guy that was tourtured and then left to rot on a cross – by romans, Italians... All kidding aside, this stuff just isn't fun for folks that have different believes. Crosses are no fun to look at and less fun if you are not one of the followers of the cross.

    June 29, 2010 at 5:40 pm |
  9. hatim

    USOLDFOLKS: Jesus died as a jew????? What happened to christianity??? Plz go read a book,,,any book just read one!!

    June 29, 2010 at 5:40 pm |
    • dsavio

      Umm....duh? Jesus died a Jew. Christians are (obviously) post-Christ. Is this not the biggest Duh ever?

      June 30, 2010 at 4:17 am |
  10. olfrank

    Personally think that the Holy Cross cannot be such a great problem. If you want live in Arab countries you have to accept many crescents minarets and other symbol of their faith. If you don't like the Cross and other Christian symbols of faith, you could go to some other country near the hell's doors... it's only your choice, because the majority of italian people believes in Jesus and his Holy Cross, and also many Russian people incredibly after statal atheism need Christian religion.

    June 29, 2010 at 5:34 pm |
    • dsavio

      The whole Point here is that many of us do not want our countries to be considered Christian countries. The country belongs to all those in it, not just those of the establishment religion.

      June 30, 2010 at 4:16 am |
  11. Norbert

    The French model isn't bad. In France there are public schools – where the display of crosses (or other religious symbols) is strictly forbidden. This makes sense, since many of us are not believers – or may be believers of a different faith.

    However, there are also private, state-funded religious schools – which can obviously display crosses, stars of David, or whatever.

    So, there's choice and everyone is mostly happy.

    June 29, 2010 at 5:22 pm |
    • dalis

      The French prohibition on religious symbols extends beyond the school edifice, but violates the freedom to worship of individual Christians, Jews, Muslims and other religious adherents because it bans jewelry, headwear, etc. on their person. In the United States, this would be a violation of the First Amendment.

      June 29, 2010 at 8:10 pm |
  12. Loved

    When I survey the wondrous cross
    On which the Prince of glory died,
    My richest gain I count but loss,
    And pour contempt on all my pride.

    June 29, 2010 at 5:22 pm |
  13. USoldfolks

    Brad, Christians are such arrogant people to feel that theirs is the only real religion and God loves only them. Actually God does not like arrogance as I recall. You may really be mistaken, after all Jesus was a Jew, born a Jew, lived as a Jew, a rabbi, and died as a Jew. I suppose if he were to return to earth as the Jew he was you would try to convert him.

    June 29, 2010 at 5:16 pm |
    • Roger


      June 29, 2010 at 5:26 pm |
    • CC

      Christians are arrogant and intolerant? Yes, Jesus was born a Jew, raised as a Jew, lived as a Jew, and died a Jew. Technically, he was not an official Rabbi as the Jewish elite or Pharisees did not recognize his place as a teacher or leader, though he did teach to his followers. However, Jesus though he kept Jewish teachings and law also stated that he was to usher a new covenant with the Jewish people as their Messiah. They however, rejected him and treated him as less than an animal, specifically a threat to their positions of power and wealth in their society. How's that for arrogant???

      June 29, 2010 at 5:33 pm |
    • jason

      Wow... you really have no clue what you are talking about do you? Jesus himself implied that there is only one true religion. Read Matthew 7:21 if you have a bible.

      June 29, 2010 at 5:49 pm |
    • Papi Mike

      I am the way, the truth and the life. No one goes to the Father except through me... now that you have seen me, you have seen the Father. Do you not realize that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?

      June 29, 2010 at 7:00 pm |
    • JörmungandrsPeople

      I demand an Ouroboros in every school! 😛
      Which Thorrsman? Do you have any demonstrable or reproducible evidence for any supernatural beings or an existence after death? We're still waiting. If correlation equals causation, Yahweh's avatar was allegedly nailed to a crux and Thor had Mjollnir.

      June 30, 2010 at 12:21 pm |
  14. Sebastian

    Why not let the teacher decide what should be in his or her classroom, and let the parents decide whether or not they want their children in the classroom. As a teacher it is my responsibility to decide what is appropriate for my classroom and my students. If I think my students were being affected in a negative way by a symbol, be it the cross, the particular face that might be on the cross, or the lack of respect for divinity, I would change my classroom environment. It is up to me to make the best decision I can make to get my students to be comfortable enough to learn the skills that they have come to me to learn. Tolerance, peace and tranquility are the most important allies I have in the classroom

    June 29, 2010 at 5:13 pm |
    • James

      It sickens me to think that you as a teacher think that this is a reasonable course of action. I rarely resort to Nazi analogies, but if you can't see why your view here is very very dangerous, just give a few seconds thought to how you would feel as a persecuted minority where the teacher and/or a majority set policy per their whims. The exact reason that we have a judiciary is to prevent us from the whims of majorities and from the unexamined nonsense that people like you would subject us to. I really don't understand how you can be a teacher if you clearly don't know the first thing about government.

      June 30, 2010 at 9:05 am |
  15. Darwin

    Italy also has a VERY strong history of PAGANISM, in which dozens of Gods, headed by Jupiter, were worshipped. Why is a picture or statue of Jupiter not displayed in the classrooms also? BTW, is that a portrait of Thomas Jefferson in the photo???

    June 29, 2010 at 5:13 pm |
    • jason

      There's no need for that, since the cross is pagan already. It originates with sun worship...

      June 29, 2010 at 5:55 pm |
  16. Don

    It's only a old Jewish bedtime story, stop repeating it to your children fools!

    June 29, 2010 at 5:12 pm |
  17. Roger

    Good, let's start with the muslims, there seem to be a lot of them in Italy

    June 29, 2010 at 5:12 pm |
  18. Gary

    As a Christian, I am not threatened by courts declaring public spaces to be religion-free zones. After all, I carry my religion deep within me–not on my sleeve. I am struck most by the fact that Russia is joining Italy in the appeal. The world has truly seen a new day. First a black president of the US, and now Russia fighting to maintain religion. When I was young, I would not have thought to live to see such changes.

    June 29, 2010 at 5:11 pm |
    • Roger

      Gary, this has little to do with saving the cross in the classroom. The reason for Russia joining is fairly obvious: they like most Western countries want to stop the infiltration of the muslims. They want to protect their way of life, before it is totally destroyed by the continuous onslaught of a foreign ideology and theology.

      June 29, 2010 at 5:21 pm |
  19. Kevin Camilleri - Malta

    If everybody followed what Jesus taught the humanity – YOU AMERICANS would not be dead afraid to board a plane. Your husbands and children would not need to go to War and die there. If Muslims can wear their scarfs in public places, if I am living in MY country, I HAVE THE RIGHT to see a SYMBOL who I believe in, in public places. Jesus had no problem to live with people of different opinion, I have no problem to live with Muslims, but who gets offended in my CHRISTIAN country because of our ways – he can return to where he came from.

    June 29, 2010 at 5:11 pm |
    • Mike

      Yea – ok. Because this is really only an AMERICAN problem. First of all, I'm a pilot and I've never been afraid to step onto an aircraft. Second of all, I'm an American and I've ALWAYS been tolerant of other religions and beliefs, no matter how much they can drive me nuts. And trust me, there are plenty more Americans that hold similar stances to me. So just drop the anti-American b-s and get a grip on reality. Intolerance is a global problem, not an American problem.

      June 29, 2010 at 6:57 pm |
    • Rick P

      I have to agree with Kevin on this one (about the symbol, not the planes). I'm an American and our country was founded on keeping religion separate from state and though I think its taken to extremes, I can understand not hanging crosses in schools or courts or government buildings here. But, I just spent two weeks in Italy and its a different world over there. You can't turn around in a city without seeing bell towers for three Catholic churches. I'm not sure if one of our tour guides was correct or not, but he said that 95 or 97% of the country is Catholic and I'll tell you, the Catholic religion is much different over there than it is here. It IS a part of the culture and history of that country and it upsets me to see a multinational court try to take that away. I say keep fighting Italy!

      June 30, 2010 at 7:44 am |
  20. Roger

    I am just wondering, all you guys with such a big mouth at the moment...what would you say, or even dare to say if it was a Muslim item?? Suddenly you would be all for it. Hypocritical do-gooders....wait till Sharia law takes over in Italy...then it will be too late.

    June 29, 2010 at 5:06 pm |
    • Mark

      No, those of us against the religious dogma being forced on society don't want Muslim any more than Christianity. They're just two sides of the same arrogant, monotheistic coin. To use another metaphor, if we strongly object to Coke for health reasons, why would we be okay with Pepsi?

      June 29, 2010 at 5:29 pm |
    • Pat

      Most people who are against the hanging of crucifixes in public places are against ALL religious symbols in public places, whether they are Christian, Islamic, Jewish, Zoroastrian, or any other religion.

      June 29, 2010 at 11:03 pm |
    • Scott

      @Roger – The better question is, how would you react to them putting an Islamic crescent next to the cross, or in place of it.

      June 30, 2010 at 12:54 pm |
    • Geo

      @Pat- The problem is a blank wall is what the Atheists want...to impose their OWN religion. Secularism=Atheism=their own EGO as god. Secularism is the 'religion' of the atheist.

      July 1, 2010 at 4:36 am |
    • Winkyb

      [ JMJ ] Always too polite@geo! The Atheists and Secularists are all wild dogs. They're dangerous because they run in packs and feed on each other. They fight and tear one another for the Blood And Flesh of Martyrs and the Innocent. Their cannibalistic table is known as the Feast of Persecutors where their cup, hands, mouth, feet, and cloth are ever drenched insatiablly with the blood of humanity.

      July 1, 2010 at 11:24 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.