Italy appeals to court to overturn crucifix ban

June 30th, 2010 - 5:00 pm ICT by IANS  

Strasbourg, June 30 (IANS/AKI) The Italian government Wednesday launched an appeal in the European Court of Human Rights to overturn a ban on crucifixes in the classrooms of public schools.

The case against crucifixes was brought by Soile Lautsi, an Italian mother, who believes her children have a right to a secular education under Italy’s Constitution.

In November last year, the Strasbourg court endorsed the woman’s claim, saying parents should be able to raise their children as they wish.

The court said placing crucifixes in the classroom violated parents’ rights and was counter to right to freedom of religion.

The court ruled: “The compulsory display of a symbol of a given confession in premises used by the public authorities… restricted the right of parents to educate their children in conformity with their convictions.”

Lautsi’s victory provoked uproar from the Vatican and political leaders in Italy which is a predominantly Catholic country.

The Vatican said it was shocked by the ruling and one politician called the move “shameful”.

The government defended the presence of crucifixes in public schools as a traditional “symbol” that extended beyond the country’s Christian roots.

In 2001-2002 Lautsis’ children, aged 11 and 13, attended the local state school, the Istituto comprensivo statale Vittorino da Feltre, in Abano Terme in northern Italy where the family lives.

According to court documents, all of the classrooms had a crucifix on the wall, including those where Lautsi children had lessons.

She and her husband asked the school to remove the crucifixes.

But in May 2002 the school’s governors decided to leave the crucifixes in the classrooms and the move was supported by the ministry of education.

While Catholicism is the dominant faith in Italy, the 1948 Constitution specifies that there is no state religion.

–IANS/AKI

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