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. dilbert

    Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not mine. . . . .

    June 30, 2010 at 7:58 am |
  2. mamamia

    Italy a country where the mafia can also go to church and pray
    as if they are not evil, a country of conflicts .
    It has also been found out that Jesus was not killed on a crucifix but
    on a pole. So what's the big deal on this ruling.
    Does not one find out that it is strange to wear a torture device around
    their neck?
    I agree with the world court ,how would Christians like enforced Scientology on them
    in every public building?

    June 30, 2010 at 7:58 am |
  3. comseses

    The cross itself does not mean anything to children , if the meaning behind it is not taught and promote at home by the parents. It is like any other symbol... I think the american flag should be banned, because many Indians were oppressed under this flag. How ridiculous is that!! how far are we going with this nonsense...If somebody does not like the rules in the country they live in...MOVE!! go to IRAK! and find your freedom!!

    June 30, 2010 at 7:52 am |
  4. Noble9

    I kinda figured that all Italians were given a rosary and tattooed with a crucifix at birth.

    June 30, 2010 at 7:45 am |
  5. Manu

    It is a sick world where a dead person nailed to a cross is a sign of peace and love. When I was a children I though it was scary.

    June 30, 2010 at 7:42 am |
  6. Bella Serra

    Ms. Patrone has made the only logical explanation regarding this absurd quest to ban the Christian Cross from a country that has the sole belief of Christianity. Plus, the Vatican is in Rome for a reason and has been for centuries. Americans should mind their business and rule within their own homes. (Opps, sorry, How could I forget the war in the Midldle East!!)) They must stick their nose in others peoples business with a totally different culture and upringing, in attempt to "Americanize" and abolish others religions, beliefs and customs. Now thats some logical thinking for all of you in which have no sense of moral, ethical, nor religious beliefs within their own life!!

    June 30, 2010 at 7:36 am |
  7. Gio de Carlo

    It is all about money... you sue, you want money... I do not believe in this business (another) of Jesus and such, but my daughter goes to a Catholic school and I am OK with her seeing and have awarnes of others believes... leave the crfoss threa dn while you are at it add the Star of David

    June 30, 2010 at 7:34 am |
  8. Joe

    So, Italy is now run not by Italians but by the "European" court? LOL! What dumbazz signed up for that?

    June 30, 2010 at 7:33 am |
  9. Bill

    On my God, Michael Jackson is not dead. Here is a clear picture of him teaching a class in Italy.

    June 30, 2010 at 7:27 am |
  10. deadMonster

    "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?"

    Is this about SuperMan? Cause if it is, I want him up there

    June 30, 2010 at 7:26 am |
  11. Phil

    Why is it that we can offend Christians by telling them to take down the crucifixes, but we cannot say the same thing to Muslims because then they'll claim discrimination and then go and burn something? You all know it's true. Just look at the riots in Denmark.

    June 30, 2010 at 7:26 am |
  12. Mike N Ike

    The bigger issue with this story has nothing to do with religious symols being displayed in the classroom. The issue is that Italy's court system was trumped by a European court system. Had Italy never entered into the European Union, we would have never had seen this story. It is frightening that we have a president in office that would not blink twice before entering the USA into such a union.

    June 30, 2010 at 7:21 am |
    • Manu

      Actually it does not matter if Italy is in the EU or not. The European Court of Human Rights was not created by the EU, but by the Council of Europe, which also consists countries that are not part of the EU i.e. Russia, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, etc... So the court will hear cases involving violations of humans rights depicted in Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms from most of the countries in the Europe, regardless of their relationship with the EU.

      June 30, 2010 at 7:58 am |
  13. Michael5

    However, it's worth to say, that after the Roman Empire came to an end, Church authorities have created administration and supported cultural development. Then, works of Greek philosophers were translated into Latin language (very popular in Europe in that time) owing to Christian philosophers (called 'scholastics'). Christianity was very important in European culture for many centuries. Even such philosophcial systems, that contradict christian values (like utilitarism, existentialism) were also under influence of Christianity (look: in these systems christianity was subject of criticism).

    So, I'm European and I respect the people who are Muslim or Atheist, but I think we, the Europeans can't forget of our cultural legacy. Apart from that, the cross is a symbol of peace, love and respect to each human.

    June 30, 2010 at 7:14 am |
  14. Jim

    Unfortunately, there is a place that is devoid of God. But, I don't think you would like it there.

    June 30, 2010 at 7:10 am |


    June 30, 2010 at 7:08 am |
  16. fronco123

    This also happens in europe, goes to show , it dont matter any more where you live.The end is near.

    June 30, 2010 at 7:06 am |
  17. lalique

    and if muslims are not allowed to wear face covers in EU- its only about being honest.. keep your religion iside your mind and heart.

    June 30, 2010 at 7:05 am |
  18. Yes

    About time to start separating religion form government and education.

    June 30, 2010 at 7:05 am |
  19. Mark

    This is only the beginning "Why do the nations rage and the people plot a vain thing? The kings (governments) of the earth set themselves, and the rulers (leaders/legislators) take counsel together, against the Lord, and against His Christ, saying "Let us break their bonds in pieces and cast away their cords from us (Let us cast away their moral restrains). He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure..." Psalm 2: 1-5
    The continuining rebellion against God who is full of love, mercy and kindness,by all nations, increasingly in America, will result in Him dealing with us in redemptive chastistment/judgment so we return to His loving bosom. This nation will mourn what it's doing like the Jews looked at Jesus and mourned the One they pierced. Repent! for the Kingdom of God is at hand!

    June 30, 2010 at 7:04 am |
  20. Albert B

    Where does it end ? Does the fact there is a church at the end of my (public) street mean that they are imposing their views on me ? Of course relegion has a place in schools and government

    June 30, 2010 at 7:04 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.