Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights: crucifixes acceptable in classrooms


   Photo: Tony Gentile 
Display of crucifix in classroom did not contravene the Convention
STRASBOURG The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights ruled on March 18, 2011, that the display of crucifixes in public school classrooms did not contravene the European Convention on Human Rights (the case Lautsi v. Italy № 30814/06), reports the Institute for Religious Freedom.

The case was brought by Soile Lautsi, a Finnish-born mother who said public schools in her Italian town refused to remove crucifixes from classrooms. She said the crucifix violates the secular principles the public schools are supposed to uphold.

The ruling overturned a decision the court had reached in November 2009 in which it said the crucifix could be disturbing to non-Christian or atheist pupils. Led by Italy, several European countries appealed that ruling. Eventually, 9 non-governmental organizations and 79 members of European Parliament and parties joined in the Italy’s government appeal to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights.

The European Court of Human Rights, which is based in Strasbourg, France, said Italian public schools did nothing wrong by hanging crucifixes in their classrooms. Final decision by the court's Grand Chamber said it found no evidence "that the display of such a symbol on classroom walls might have an influence on pupils."

This ruling focused on Italian public schools, and does not automatically force other countries to allow crucifixes in the public schools, according to the court.

But its decision affects all 47 countries, including Ukraine, that are members of the Council of Europe, the continent's human rights watchdog. Citizens in other Council of Europe countries who want religious symbols in classrooms could now use this ruling as a legal argument in national courts. According to the European Convention the decision by the court's Grand Chamber is final and without appeal.

In April May 2010 the heads of number of Christian churches of Ukraine sent a written motion to Jean-Paul Costa, the President of the European Court, with a request to enter to the record of case Lautsi v. Italy joint attitude of Ukrainian churches on protection of each nation right to preserve own religious traditions and symbol.



© 2011 The Institute for Religious Freedom Kyiv, Ukraine


Institute for Religious Freedom

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