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Religious symbols permitted in classrooms: European Court

In a landmark case that on religious symbols in schools that will be binding across Europe, the European Court of Human Rights has said that crucifixes should be permitted in Italian classrooms.

Image: Salvatore Laporta/AP/Press Association Images

THE EUROPEAN COURT of Human Rights has ruled that crucifixes are acceptable in public school classrooms.

The ruling overturns a November 2009 ruling, which found Italy guilty of violating religious freedoms after a case was brought by an Italian citizen who objected to crucifixes being present in her children’s classroom.

Sole Lautsi, who wished to raise her children in accordance with secular principles, objected to religious symbols being present in a place of education. Strabourg ruled in her favour, saying that the presence of religious symbols violated the children’s rights as outlined in the Human Rights Convention, specifically their ”right to education” and their “right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion”. The court said that a crucifix could be disturbing to non-Christian or atheist pupils.

Today’s ruling overturned the 2009 ruling, and will be binding to all 47 countries that are members of the Council of Europe, the continent’s human rights watchdog.

Several European countries appealed the ruling, however the final decision by the court’s Grand Chamber came down Friday.

The European Humanist Federation has described the ruling as “a lost opportunity” saying in a statement released today: “This highly regrettable judgement retreats from the clarity of the initial ruling that the State and its institutions must be impartial, not favouring one religion or belief over another.  This principle is particularly important when the State is addressing school pupils, since they are not only immature and impressionable but also a captive audience.”

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Additional reporting by AP

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