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. Pope Benedict

    The crosses are necessary to brainwash children while they are young and gullible. In this way we can assure many new church members. This is much like the tobacco companies, who market to children with religious symbols like Joe the Camel in order to get children addicted and to become customers for life.

    June 30, 2010 at 7:03 am |
  2. lalique

    It is said: no idols/ graven images to worship. so, everybody who does believe in God, knows, the truth is his/her heart. no need to put crosses on walls, to show your faith!

    June 30, 2010 at 7:02 am |


    June 30, 2010 at 6:57 am |
  4. n. fine

    Oh brother yet MORE RELIGIOUS STUPID dogma to overturn academic excellence and I thought it was only in the US. stupid me! UGH ... anyone know of an island I can go to where religious idiocy does NOT exist or if it does it does NOT interfere with human freedoms?????

    June 30, 2010 at 6:57 am |
  5. TBA

    The reason that Italy and the Catholic church refuse to take down the cross is because the Vatican is located in Italy, which is the headquaters of the Vatican Church, and the Cross is a symbol of their DICTATORSHIP.

    June 30, 2010 at 6:53 am |
  6. Mike

    The European Union can pass any motion it wants, the Italians are still going to put crosses in their schools. I double-dare anyone to go and try to remove them.

    June 30, 2010 at 6:53 am |
  7. pabloiglesia

    these atheist will only know the importance of the cross who symbolizes the salvation of all those who believes in Him when they are in their death bed.

    16I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. – Romans 1:16

    June 30, 2010 at 6:53 am |
    • n. fine

      BALONEY. it's dogma like that which will end the human habitation of this planet. The planet will go on without us and YOU are responsible not agnostics or atheists!

      June 30, 2010 at 6:58 am |
    • jesus

      I see that you're a follower of first century VooDoo. Enjoy your insanity, just don't try to inflict it on others.

      June 30, 2010 at 8:31 am |
  8. timkim

    at least they have the guts to fight it out.. U.S.A. don't...

    June 30, 2010 at 6:51 am |
  9. Pope Benedict

    We need the crosses to remind children how good the church can be, when the priests are not raping them.

    June 30, 2010 at 6:45 am |
  10. It's called aetheism - just another "religion"

    So, you remove all forms of "RELIGIOUS SYMBOLS" from schools.
    Doesn't that then change from whatever religion was purported to be displayed to being on the side of aetheists thus portraying the religion of "AETHEISM?"

    June 30, 2010 at 6:43 am |
    • irritated

      Freedom of Religion vs Freedom from Religion – they are not the same thing. Atheism wants to deny the former and replace it with the latter.

      June 30, 2010 at 8:10 am |


    June 30, 2010 at 6:41 am |
    • Daniel

      Don E
      About time the pretend devil did something good. Do you also believe in the Easter bunny?
      I belive in the one and only true King, Elvis who is coming again and taking all his true followers to
      graceland. amen

      June 30, 2010 at 2:47 pm |
  12. Jim

    A great many atheists suddenly start believing differently when death is near. It makes me sad to see so many deny the existence of God. Do you really think that the earth, its abundant life, the complexity of the human body and ability to reason just happened by accident? That's the real unbelievable stretch of imagination!

    June 30, 2010 at 6:41 am |
    • Frills

      This atheist has cancer and intends to die proudly as an atheist. Don't get me wrong...I enjoy I good fairy tale as much as the next person. But I was raised to know the difference between fairy tales and real life. People like you should be rejoicing at the new Health Care legislation - it should help you pay for the mental crutches you so desperately depend on.

      June 30, 2010 at 6:46 am |
  13. Christopher

    How could someone not share that symbol? Simple: NOT EVERYONE IS SO DAMNED DENSE AS TO BELIEVE IN AN IMAGINARY, NONEXISTENT 'god'.

    June 30, 2010 at 6:40 am |
  14. Lord Zedd

    Gotta keep the sheep suppressed! We can't have the children thinking freely or critically, we need to remind them every second that god is watching and that if you stray from his word you will burn in hell forever.

    June 30, 2010 at 6:36 am |
  15. Phil

    "Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heaerd that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour." – The Apostle John (1 John 2:18 NIV)

    June 30, 2010 at 6:36 am |
  16. Christopher

    I am sorry, but in PUBLIC SCHOOLS, any show of religion or discussion of religion (unless it relates to the subject at hand) is verboten, anywhere in the world that SECULAR is what public schools strive for.

    June 30, 2010 at 6:34 am |
  17. Pope Benedict

    Forcing children to stare at a Christian symbol all day, while they are supposed to be learning academics, is CHILD ABUSE.

    June 30, 2010 at 6:29 am |
  18. captn crusty

    Good grief it seems that the entire world is full of cry babies wanting to change the course of history by denial. Just because you take it down doesn't erase the fact that your entire world as you know it has been built upon by religion. There are many things that I disagree with but I don't lead "crusades" to have them removed. I have thicker skin than that. Hah! Lol! An entire world population of sissies. Lol my sides are hurting from laughing at you! I doubt Jesus would have posted here since is seems that it is just a place for extreme people to express their beliefs. I still have my faith, and no one can ever take that away!

    June 30, 2010 at 6:26 am |
  19. freetime1

    Most western nations have learned to except other beliefs and therefore have become better more tolerant places to live. It's nice to know that not all nations want to be good tolerant places for people of different beliefs. Most islamic countries all ready know tolerance is a bad thing and it is good to see Italy wishes to be just as intolerant as they are. Way to go. A nice steep backwards.

    June 30, 2010 at 6:24 am |
  20. John Foster

    People should not be making decisions in France about what happens in Italy.

    June 30, 2010 at 5:43 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.