Holy See welcomes human rights court ruling that crucifixes are acceptable in state classrooms


THE HOLY See expressed its satisfaction at yesterday’s European Court of Human Rights ruling to the effect that crucifixes are acceptable in state school classrooms and do not violate the rights of atheist and non-Christian students.

The Strasbourg court, Europe’s foremost human rights watchdog, was yesterday ruling on an appeal by Italy against a November 2009 judgment that found Italy in breach of Articles 2 and 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In a controversial ruling, the court had argued that the display of crucifixes on school classrooms in Italy contravened “educational pluralism”.

In a turnaround, the court’s grand chamber yesterday overturned the original judgment, ruling that crucifixes are acceptable in state school classrooms and saying it had found no evidence “that the display of such a symbol on classroom walls might have an influence on pupils”.

Yesterday’s ruling will be binding on all 47 member countries of the Council Of Europe.

Inevitably, the Holy See expressed its satisfaction, with senior Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi commenting: “This is a historic and important ruling, with far-reaching implications . . . An authoritative and international legal forum has ruled that the defence of human rights cannot be juxtaposed against the religious foundations of European civilisation, a civilisation to which the contribution of Christianity was essential.”

Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini also expressed his satisfaction.

“Today, popular sentiment won out in Europe. For this decision above all reflects the opinion of all those keen to defend their own values and identity,” he said.

Yesterday’s ruling comes at the end of a 10-year legal battle, initiated in 2001 by Soile Lautsi, an Italian woman of Finnish origins, who had argued that the state school in Abano Terme, Veneto, had impinged on her children’s human rights by hanging crucifixes in every room.

Yesterday her husband, Dr Massimo Albertin, said he was “very disappointed” by this final ruling.