Why this ruling should make us cross
Arvamus 21 Dec 2009  EWR
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The decision of the European Court of Human Rights to ban crucifixes in Italian schools sets a dangerous precedent.
Neil Addison, Spiked


While Italian president Silvio Berlusconi’s beating at the hands of a souvenir-wielding protester dominated the headlines, Italian democracy took a more severe beating recently at the hands of European bureacrats.

At the beginining of November, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) decided that crucifixes must be removed from Italian school rooms. The decision was greeted with fury in Italy and has raised concerns in Greece, too. In Britain the case seems to have been dismissed as a typically Italian fuss. What has been completely left out of this debate, though, is the question of the democratic right of a nation to decide on its own culture and symbols.

According to an ECHR press release, the applicant, Mrs Soile Lautsi, is a Finnish lady who is married to an Italian. They have two children who both went to the local state school where, in accordance with Italian Law, each classroom had a crucifix on the wall. Many commentators have stated that this requirement dates from the time of Mussolini. The ECHR, however, dated it back to 1860. And since the requirement to affix a crucifix to the wall was confirmed by Italian ministerial regulation in 2007, there is no question that it has the support of the Italian government and those it represents - the Italian people.

Lautsi’s children were taught in classrooms where a crucifix was displayed, but they were not required to attend Catholic religious ceremonies and could withdraw from Religious Education classes. But this, it seems, was not enough for Lautsi.

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