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. lilly

    Sorry, but i wasnt aware that the swastika is part of the German culture. Its pretty sad that someone who chose to immigrate to a christian country is now trying to remove crosses from their schools because of their beliefs, or lack of. And we wonder what is wrong with this world. All that is being spread here is hate and intollerance. She should have moved to north america they have already taken most of the crosses down in schools

    June 29, 2010 at 8:12 pm |
    • BobWhoLikesBeef

      lilly, listen to yourself. Most of these people have been born and raised in the country. These aren't first generation Saudi's coming in that are complaining.

      June 30, 2010 at 12:43 am |
  2. mARY

    I think that if anyone has a problem...they should just move to another country ...
    May be they are being treated to well for their own good!!!

    June 29, 2010 at 8:01 pm |
  3. Arnaldo

    The swastika is parte of the history of Germany. Why don't german people put swastikas in theirs schools?

    June 29, 2010 at 7:58 pm |
    • Thorrsman

      Come now, you know why: Because of a brief period in history when a symbol that has been used around the world for thousands of years as a sign of good will was used to represent an evil socialistic nation whose leader ordered the death of millions. People today can't be bothered to learn more than a thumbnail sketch of history, so they only know one meaning for that ancient symbol.

      June 29, 2010 at 8:08 pm |
    • gatlin

      political correctness

      June 29, 2010 at 9:54 pm |
  4. lilly

    Well put. I wonder If we moved to a Muslim country we could demand they remove all their religious symbols in their schools because they are offensive. Not a chance. You choose where you live, they did not ask you to move there, you choose to live there. Respect their culture, and if you dont like it......move. I am not a very religious person, but I find in offensive that in north america, you cannot put up a chirstmas tree, (or are forced to rename it), you cannot wish anyone a merry christmas, but a happy holliday.This is descrimination against Christians.

    June 29, 2010 at 7:55 pm |
    • dalis

      lilly Anyone who wouldn't receive a "Merry Christmas" or any other well-wishing from you does not respect you.

      June 29, 2010 at 7:58 pm |
  5. christianity rules

    What a load of BS ! This all started because of Muslim imigrants into european schools. Muslims going to CHRISTIAN countries and their schools and demanding the cross come down. AND OUR IGNORANT COURTS COMPLIED. Just imagine foreigners going to ANY muslim country and demanding the cresent moon be removed ! THE ISSUE here is what the national religion of a country is, and that should stand. Everyone is just a guest. Italy is a Christian Catholic country, and the cross should be freely displayed . If any others are offended, then they should eff-off back to where ever they came from. This stands for all other counties. Greece and Cyprus will NEVER remove their symbols of christianity that have stood for 2000 years because some pilloks emigrating to europore demand so.

    June 29, 2010 at 7:29 pm |
    • dalis

      The woman who brought the suit relocated from Finland and is an atheist.

      June 29, 2010 at 7:56 pm |
    • joey


      I think the Finish women should have started from suing here own country first. She should have lobbied for the removal of the cross from the flag that represents here country. The Nordic cross on Finland's flag is a symbol of Christianity.That would have sparked some controversy.

      June 29, 2010 at 8:28 pm |
    • dalis

      You'll notice that this suit was not brought by any student. She has indoctrinating of her own to do.

      June 29, 2010 at 10:44 pm |
    • tc

      Yeah take that non believers. BURN BURN BURN

      June 30, 2010 at 1:43 am |
    • Kam

      Yeah, go ahead and blame Muslims for something they didn't even do. Very Christian of you.

      June 30, 2010 at 11:27 am |
  6. ZYS

    Crusifix is also a symbol of sacrifice. If we are starting the "offense" game, I have a list of offenses too. Actually everyone has his own list. The presence of crusifix does not force anyone to believe in christianity so stop this nonsense.
    The new secular Taliban are going too far, the original taliban couldnot bare Budah statute and destroyed it, and the secular Taliban are having a problem with crusifix.
    When I see people in Paris mocking a catholic person because of his belief, I am sure that seggregation is not abolished but transformed...
    The hell with that logic

    June 29, 2010 at 7:28 pm |
    • thor

      Thats very good secuar taliban, the taliban are religious fanatics you religious nutjob. Stick to your blind faith, your attempt at logic was a failure. Separate state and church

      June 29, 2010 at 7:47 pm |
  7. elizabeth rosen

    Jews in those classrooms surely are not thrilled with crosses in the public schools. Italy needs to get with the program of separation of church and state - it matters not that the Vatican is there.

    June 29, 2010 at 7:23 pm |
    • Joseph

      Maybe Christans in a class room inisrael might be offended with the star of david but you don't hear complaints.
      Get over it and don't try to change history or regligion.

      June 29, 2010 at 7:55 pm |
    • Michele Patrone

      Are you all serious? Italy is 90% Roman Catholic. Lets make an analogy. Try and go to Israel and remove every Star of David, menorah, or kippah from classrooms. It's not only unreasonable, but illogical. The cross is not only a religious symbol, but for Italy is a historical one as well. Italy is NOT America, and does not have to conform to everyone that whines to get their way. Please stop trying to impose your values on a culture that is not your own. As an Italian, I find it repulsive that American athiest ideals are being forced upon our culture. p.s we dont have separation of church and state

      June 29, 2010 at 10:08 pm |
  8. joe

    The Crucifix is as much a part of Italy , in every aspect of Italian Life, as baseball and apple pie is to America.
    It is at the Core ot Italy and Italian existance. Not only will the Crucifix stay in ALL Italian Classrooms, it will also stay in ALL
    Italian Post Offices, Courts, Doctors offices, Hospitals, Public Places, etc etc etc..
    If someone in Italy is bothered by the Crucifix, they can leave the country. Dress properly as Muslim custom requires, when in Saudi Arabia, and accept the Crucifix everywhere it Italy.

    June 29, 2010 at 7:17 pm |
    • JMJ

      Do you go round nailing apple pies to school walls? I think there iis a little more at the Core ot Italy and Italian existance than the Crucifix. Baseball and apple pies my,my...

      June 29, 2010 at 7:53 pm |
  9. joey

    It is not possible to remove the cross and other Christian symbols from public spaces in Europe since they are an integral part of Europe's cultural heritage. It simple cannot be done without defacing historically important buildings, monuments, art work etc. that are found in European public spaces. And here I'm not talking about churches. In the past, it was normal to include the cross and other Christian symbols as an integral part of the design of secular buildings and monuments.
    Also, what will happen to the flags of England, UK, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Finland, Denmark, Switzerland etc if we start removing religious symbols from supposedly secular things? All the flags of these countries include a cross and their designs were inspired from the cross of Christianity. What shall we do? change them as well? .

    June 29, 2010 at 7:16 pm |
  10. Liz

    It is completely moronic for this woman (or anyone else for that matter) to be offended by the mere presence of a crusifix. I am not religious, but I am in no way offened by crosses or symbols belonging to any other religion. The existance of these symbols is not an imposition. I think there are real issues in this world that need to be addressed and people need to think about what's important. I mean, really???? According to this logic, I guess muslims shouldn't be allowed to wear turbans anymore because they are imposing their religion on us!

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

      Most Muslims don't wear turbans! It's just the tradition in some Muslim countires!

      June 29, 2010 at 11:30 pm |
  11. dyan

    One might ask, if Christ had been killed with a gun (if there were such in the 1st century), would catholics also hang a gun around their neck and want to put a gun in all classrooms in Italy?
    The catholic cross that the clergy say Christ (catholics actually call him God and he is not, he is the son of God) died on was per the scriptures actually from the greek word stauros meaning upright stake (no crossbar on the top); the catholic cross has become another idol that is worshiped and prayed before, this too is not according to scripture.

    June 29, 2010 at 6:54 pm |
  12. Henk

    The Italian Conference of Bishops called it "cause for bitterness and many perplexities."...So where was this "conference of Bishops" the last couple of years when thousands of new abuse cases were discovered committed by their own priests?

    June 29, 2010 at 6:53 pm |
  13. Barry McD

    I'm forced to be inundated and brainwashed with ads and commercial messages daily. I'm told to "buy, consume, purchase, upsize, etc". I believe that is a religion being forced down my throat. Can I be protected from it as well? The catholic religion made italy's culture and people what it is today. People did not grow up in a vacuum tube of nothingness. Even if a person says they are "secular", they still believe in materialism, worship money, objects, etc. How ridiculous is it that some people who don't believe in religion, are the same people that think buying a material object will make you happy. Give me religion any day to these neanderthals.

    June 29, 2010 at 6:51 pm |
    • Daws

      Actually we don't worship ANYTHING, we believe in just being good for it's own sake, right and good coming from the nature of the human condition. Demonizing much? Get to know some atheists, in real life, as friends, before you make judgments about them as an entire group.

      July 1, 2010 at 11:50 pm |
  14. JMJ

    Agree totally, Europe's past was dominated by religion, and they were sooo screwed, Ireland in the last 50 years being a prime example of what happens when a religious organisation attempts to take over the running of schools (read the Ryan report). Thats why in Europe we have secular democracies. In schools the emphasis should be on reason and logic, not blind faith and fairy tales.

    June 29, 2010 at 6:50 pm |
    • dalis

      Reason and logic? That's funny, considering the Catholic Church invented the university – in Italy (Bologna).

      June 29, 2010 at 6:56 pm |
    • Thor

      I think the early Greeks may have had a hand in reason and logic a little before the catholic church. The Inquisition that was the catholic church, also the crusades all very reasonable and logical.

      June 29, 2010 at 7:09 pm |
    • dalis

      thor There is a reason it's called the Spanish Inquisition; it happened in Spain. When you speak of the Church, you speak if the Counter-Reformation.

      June 29, 2010 at 7:59 pm |
  15. paul j. weighell

    "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.
    These poor old bishops have missed the point entirely. Unproven mythologies such as ‘Catholicism’ cannot, and should not, be imposed on individuals by any such nonsense as “the Vatican/Italy agreement of 1984”. Of course kids should not be brainwashed into mythology without fact. That is why we teach them science.

    Secular law based on rational objective evidence must override religious myth. My own opinion is that secular v religious is the next great cold war – if religion wins then we are all really sooooo screwed…

    June 29, 2010 at 6:40 pm |
    • dalis

      Did you know that the empiricism you elevate was developed by Catholics (St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Bonaventure, William of Ockham, Grosseteste, Descartes, Spinoza) among others of many faith traditions? Do you actually know anything about the Catholicism you dismiss as so much "religious myth"?

      June 29, 2010 at 7:11 pm |
    • thor

      I think the Greeks may have had a liittle more of a role in empiricism. The period you relate is known as the dark ages, as opposed to the age of enlightenment some years after all those Catholics you mention. Spinoza was actually a Dutch Jew.

      June 29, 2010 at 7:20 pm |
    • dalis

      @ thor Spinoza was a Jew but he was "excommunicated" (cherem) early in his life and was afterward a practicing Catholic, though his published works were banned. I mention those figures in Catholicism instrumental in the development of the scientific method (I forgot Roger Bacon). There were afterwards several notable Catholics working in the scientific fields of astronomy (Copernicus, Galileo, Cassini), physics (Fr. Georges Lemaitre, first proposed the Big Bang Theory), mathematics (Pascal), chemistry (Pasteur), and biology (Fr. Gregor Mendel, founder of genetics).

      June 29, 2010 at 7:50 pm |
    • thor

      Dalis, Wikipedia? You can't not at one time claim faith above everything then claim at the basis of Catholism is reason and logic. Next you'll be claiming you can prove the existence of god.

      June 29, 2010 at 7:59 pm |
    • dalis

      thor I do not at all claim "blind" faith. I claim reason for that which man can discern, and the good sense and humility to admit that there is still mystery in the universe and our limited capacity to understand it.

      June 29, 2010 at 8:03 pm |
    • thor

      Science is doing a very good job of understanding and explaining in less than 100 years the working of the Universe, than the Catholic church has delivered in 2000 years. Your mystery is your limited capacity to understand. The earth goes round the sun I may remind you, no mystery. The earth is not flat.

      June 29, 2010 at 8:13 pm |
    • dalis

      thor I guess even atheists can fall prey to rumor and unsubstantiated BS. This is exactly what I mean by a lack of humility. Perhaps you're unfamiliar with the historic fallacy. It's the ethic that historians (like myself) use to prevent us from judging people from the past for not knowing that which they were not capable of knowing, whether because of the times they lived in or their worldview. Are you similarly going to condemn people who lived prior to Pasteurization (Catholic) for not quick-heating their raw milk? Or people who lived before antisepsis developed by Joseph Lister (Quaker) for not washing between surgeries? How will the future judge you and I?

      June 29, 2010 at 8:33 pm |
    • dalis

      thor Hey, Mr. Condescension, unless I'm chatting with Stephen Hawking (an atheist, sure, but a humble atheist), you're not the one making the discoveries. (I'll cop to the Church previously endorsing the geocentric model over the heliocentric (Copernican) model, but Copernicus and Galileo were employed by the Church. They're intentions were noble, but they were unprepared for the result. As to the "flat earth" myth, you pulled that squarely out of your behind. No one in Europe after Pythagoras believed in a flat earth, so I guess you're the one who subscribes to fairy tales).

      June 29, 2010 at 10:20 pm |
  16. SoProud2BItalian

    Firstly, it's absurd that religious symbols should be allowed in any modern classrooms. Italy's excuse that the crucifix is part of its national heritage is typical Italian spin-doctoring to make sure the symbol stays up and to make sure they stay on good terms with Pope Benny.
    The real reason that the Catholic church (and its lacky, the Italian goverment) want to keep the crucifixes in the schools is because all us Italians claim to be perfect Catholics, though only 1 in 50 of us attends a church service that is not associated with a family wedding, baptism, christening or annual Christian holiday. If you get rid of the crucifixes in the schools, the children will likely grow up with no strong feelings of association with the Catholic church and that would REALLY strike a blow to the already decreasing numbers of the Catholic faith.
    Can you Americans imagine attending schools without reciting the Pledge of Allegeance and where the American flag isn't around every corner? That's how your incredible patriotism is instilled and that's exactly what the catholic church is fighting to maintain throughout the territory of the only G8 country that it has any serious influence over.

    June 29, 2010 at 6:36 pm |
    • dalis

      Perhaps you are not aware that Brazil has the 8th largest economy in the world (by nominal GDP) and is 73.6% Catholic (that's almost 137,000,000).

      June 29, 2010 at 7:23 pm |
  17. Davide M. from Padova, Italy

    It is worth to stress that Mrs Lautsi (finnish) and her italian husband belong to the Radical Party, a party which blames often the catholic church and the vatican in many fields of social life. Most of atheists, muslims, and whatever non-catholic people in Italy have any kind of problems with crucifixes in classroms or justice courts etc. since the crucifix stands for a symbol of our history and traditions. I hope CNN readers can get the idea.

    June 29, 2010 at 6:32 pm |
  18. Thorrsman

    So the Europeans have the same sort of Evangelical Atheist fanatics America has. Wonderful.

    June 29, 2010 at 6:21 pm |
    • green giant

      Its separation of state and religion, very much like in the US. The religious fanatics can believe in whatever fiction their little minds can handle but not use religion it to run a democratic government. If the religious nutcases ran the country it would be a theocracy. Europe has had a enough of religious organisations having too much control of the running of the state and control over young people (especially the hurt the church has inflicted on the young).

      June 29, 2010 at 6:32 pm |
    • dalis

      @ Green Giant Your fear of a theocracy is debunked by the glaring example, Italy. Italy has been majority Catholic since long before the Unification. It's the furthest thing from a theocracy.

      June 29, 2010 at 6:52 pm |
    • green giant

      dalis you should read before you make a comment. Never said Italy was a theocracy, If the religious nutcases ran the country it would be a theocracy. Stick to your fairy tales, blind faith and all that nonsense.

      June 29, 2010 at 7:13 pm |
    • Thorrsman

      green giant : But "religious nutcases" (to use your bigotted term) DON'T run this country OR Italy. Nor is there any danger of that. We're more in danger from the fanatic Atheists and the Fundamentalist Muslims than any western belief system.

      June 29, 2010 at 7:59 pm |
  19. thor

    If the Catholic want to display crosses in schools, or any religion wants to display whatever symbol they want, then that church and parents should fund the school itself. Not rely on the state to fund its indoctrination of children. If they want to believe in little fairies at the bottom of their gardens let them but pay for it themselves.

    June 29, 2010 at 6:13 pm |
    • Thorrsman

      By that reasoning, shouldn't the tiny Atheist minority fund THEIR own schools rather than being allowed to impose their will on the majority?

      June 29, 2010 at 6:24 pm |
    • JMJ

      @thorrsman, reasoning!! you should stick to faith leave reasoning and logic to science. Stick to your fairy tales, just believe.

      June 29, 2010 at 6:42 pm |
    • Thorrsman

      JMJ What is it that makes your Atheists and pretend believers in science so angry, I wonder?

      June 29, 2010 at 8:01 pm |
    • JMJ

      @THORSMAN We (the atheists) are taking over baby, were angry and we want your brains (well not yours dalis or thorsman obviously)

      June 29, 2010 at 8:19 pm |
    • Thorrsman

      JMJ Now THAT is what I call believing in fairy tales!

      June 29, 2010 at 8:47 pm |
    • dalis

      JMJ You don't have logic or reasoning, just ad hominem attacks.

      June 30, 2010 at 12:44 am |
  20. Vizier

    when many govt in euro are behind Muslim women and Islamic symbol and they are sending student back to there home if they have any religious symbol on them, so why you want to have one inside, it just show double standard on euro countrys.

    when they say that one should have freedom of speech then one should have freedom to wear there religious symbol also. don't make things hard make it simple. yes its bad to remove the cross, but then the teacher is having her back on it all the time.

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

      False. In some places (like France) – you can get sent home for wearing any kind of religious symbol – even a cross.

      The glory of the people of France is positively correlated with their true faith. I say 'true' faith because sometimes the Church represents a corrupt version of spirituality – and Voltaire and other 'secularists' weren't truly secular.

      But as France becomes truly – truly communist – by abolishing any notion that there is something beyond what we cannot see – they'll suffocate and go downhill.

      I used to live in France – as much as I love them – they are doomed.

      June 29, 2010 at 6:10 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21
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.