A Collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh

Europe rights court rules crucifixes in public schools violate Convention

[JURIST] The European Court of Human Rights (EHCR) [official website] ruled [judgment, in French] Tuesday that displaying a crucifix in a public school classroom violates the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF]. The lawsuit was brought against Italy by Soile Lautsi, who claimed that displaying a crucifix "infringed the constitutional principles of secularism and of impartiality on the part of the public authorities." The EHCR stated [press release] that the hanging of the crucifix was a violation of Article 2 of Protocol I and Article 9 of the rights convention and that:

The freedom not to believe in any religion (inherent in the freedom of religion guaranteed by the Convention) was not limited to the absence of religious services or religious education: it extended to practices and symbols which expressed a belief, a religion or atheism. This freedom deserved particular protection if it was the State which expressed a belief and the individual was placed in a situation which he or she could not avoid, or could do so only through a disproportionate effort and sacrifice.
Both Italian and Catholic leaders have criticized the ruling. The Vatican recieved the news [Reuters report] with "shock and sadness" according to spokesman Federico Lombardi. Italian Minister of Education Mariastella Gelmini [official profile, in Italian] said that the crucifix was more than just a religious symbol, and that it also represented national traditions [press release, in Italian]. The Italian government plans to appeal the ruling.

In October, the US State Department (DOS) [official website] noted in its annual Report on International Religious Freedom [materials; JURIST report] that the continued presence of Catholic symbols in Italy [materials] has been a source of criticism and lawsuits. Earlier that month, the EHCR ruled [JURIST report] that Russia had illegally interfered with the freedom of religion by not allowing two Scientology groups to register as religious groups.

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.