Italy will not remove crucifix from public display: Berlusconi

[JURIST] Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said Friday that Italy is not bound by last week's European Court of Human Rights (EHCR) [official website] ruling [judgment, in French; JURIST report] that displaying crucifixes in a public school classroom violates the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF]. Berlusconi's remarks were made on the same day that the Council of Ministers gave its approval [press release, in Italian] to appeal the decision. Berlusconi went so far as to say [Corriere della Sera report, in Italian] that even if Italy loses its appeal of Lautsi v. Italy, he considers it to be disrespectful and Italy would not be coerced into upholding it. The actual decision recognizes a violation of Article 2 of Protocol I and Article 9 of the rights convention and mandates that Italy must pay 5000 euros to the complainant Lautsi for moral damages. The decision is not explicit about any measure Italy must take in regards to crucifixes in public places. There has been widespread public outcry [Il Giornale report, in Italian] in Italy over the decision from across the political spectrum, and responses have included suggestions of holding a referendum on the subject.

Tension between secularism and religious values continues to drive the controversy behind display of religious symbols across Europe. In Spain, the subject of crucifixes in public schools continues to be controversial [El Pais report, in Spanish] with the government abstaining from mandating their removal and local court decisions mandating their removal. In March, Bulgaria approved [IslamOnline report] a law to ban religious symbols in schools, including clothing items like the hijab. In 2004, France banned religious clothing and symbols in public schools [JURIST report]. A German court has upheld a similar ban [JURIST report].

 

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