European Court Rules on Crucifix in Classrooms

italian_schoolSomewhere, Michael Newdow, the California atheist obsessed with striking God from everywhere but the Bible, is smiling…

As yesterday, the European Court of Human Rights headlined Italian news when they ruled on a case brought by Soile Lautso Albertin, an Italian citizen originally from Finland, who wanted crucifixes removed from her sons’ classrooms. The court decided that the presence of crucifixes in the classrooms is a “violation of the right of parents to educate their children according to their wishes,” and an assault on the “freedom of religion for the students.”

The Italian government was also ordered to pay, five thousand euros, for their part in psychologically damaging the boys who were forced to learn in the midst of a crucifix.

Unscientific results from a web poll posed by Corriere della Sera, show slightly more than half, 52.3%, disagreeing with the court’s decision, with a tad more than nine thousand respondents.

Politicians reacted predictably. Adel Smith, President of the Union of Muslims in Italy who once referred to Jesus Christ as a “miniature cadaver,” questioned how crucifix defenders could have been surprised; “in a state which defines itself as secular, cannot oppress other faiths by showing a particular religious symbol.” And the national secretary of the Union of Atheists and Agnostics joined an Italian communist leader proclaiming victory.

Many mainstream politicians, however, disagreed with the decision. “I think that the ancient tradition of the crucifix could not be offensive to anyone,” argued Pierluigi Bersani, leader of the neo-PD. For Minister Mariastella Gelmini (PDL) “the presence of the crucifix in the classroom does not mean adherence to Catholicism, but is a symbol of our tradition.”

The Vatican is obviously disappointed. From the Corriere della Sera:

Father Federico Lombardi, in a brief speech to Vatican Radio and the Tg1, told of “surprise and regret” with which – in the Papal city – has greeted the decision of the court Council of Europe. “The crucifix – he explained – was always a sign of God’s offer of love and union and shelter for all humanity. It is sad that it has been regarded as a sign of division, exclusion or restriction of freedom.

Regardless of whether one agrees with the ruling or not, the refreshing candor shown by vocal Italian politicians who are unthreatened by their faith and culture, should serve as a lesson to milquetoast American pols, who are often all too eager to undercut their own beliefs to exude tolerance.

As Americans, we always hear how secular and opposed to organized religion Europeans are, yet there are still many schools in Europe where Christmas is celebrated and crosses hang undisturbed.  That might change, and yesterday’s ruling might signal a push for heightened secularism and greater division between governments and religion, but as of today, Christians have more freedom to celebrate their faith.

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