Comments: ECHR rules in Italian school crucifixes case

I know I'm mixing apples and oranges, and making a mess thereof, but:
Let me get this straight. It is OK for France to tell Muslim female students that they cannot wear head scarves to publicly-funded schools, but it's OK to hang crucifixes in publicly-funded schools?
I fail to see how a crucifix -- not a cross, but a crucifix -- is anything other than a religious symbol. How anyone can argue that a crucifix merely "symbolised the principles and values which formed the foundation of democracy and western civilisation" [quote from the PDF] is beyond me.
To non-Christians, especially certain non-Christians who have lived in Europe since Roman times, and for whom "the Lord is our God, and the Lord is One", the crucifix might also represent oppression, pogroms, ghettoes, autos da fe, etc.
I see a certain tendency of some secular authorities who are so eager to protect certain customs and practices that they are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to preserve them. Thus is crucifix is merely a symbol of European tradition, and here in the States, a Nativity creche is merely a cozy scene of family life.
The AP says the decision is binding on all member states, but the way I read the decision, the ruling leaves it up to each member state to continue the practices it already has.

Posted by peterpi - Peter Gross at Friday, 18 March 2011 at 6:24pm GMT

Simon, sorry for the addendum:
In my previous post, I assume that a "crucifix" is specifically and exclusively "a cross with a representation of the body of Jesus of Nazareth laying upon it."
But I see that several Internet dictionary definitions state that a crucifix can be just a cross. I don't know what definition the European Court is using.
Nonetheless, how a taxpayer-funded school, a symbol of government, can display crucifixes without making a statement about the primacy and importance of Christianity over other religions, or no religion, is beyond me. From my perspective, a non-Christian student will almost certainly make that connection.

Posted by peterpi - Peter Gross at Friday, 18 March 2011 at 6:42pm GMT

I must confess that I found the original ruling rather troubling and, on balance, think the latest ruling is the right way for the European court of human rights to proceed in terms of correctly situating itself in the European domain. I think that the court should have regard to the margin of appreciation. Its authority is severely put at risk where it doesn't which risks the entire human rights framework in the council of Europe especially at a time when the UK is posturing against the court on prisoner voting.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Friday, 18 March 2011 at 7:46pm GMT

A crucifix is a timely symbol. It is a constant reminder of the need to struggle for human rights.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Friday, 18 March 2011 at 11:36pm GMT

I think it's really important that every student in an inclusive society, regardless of religion or non-religion, class, colour, race or orientation, feels that they are part of their school. A symbol of what is the "right way to be and believe" religion-wise is not helpful. The Quebec Parliament recently voted to keep the cross in the lower house, while banning muslims from dressing certain ways and Sikhs from carrying Kirpans. Again, not helpful. But if you're Jewish, you know official Catholic Quebec hasn't always been a hotbed of tolerance (though its people are.)

Posted by Randal Oulton at Saturday, 19 March 2011 at 5:21am GMT

As someone who lived in Italy for Forty years and raised two children who went to Italian state schools, I'll put my two cents in. The crucifixes (and yes, the Body is there, and they generally or always plastic in tot, that is not just the Body but also the cross) were not hung in Italian state funded school (or hospitals, post offices, government offices etc etc) after 1860 (the Unification of Italy) and 1929 (Mussolini's, repeat Mussolini's agreement with Catholic Church) and afterwards, always. It seems to me quite ironic that those, including the Roman Catholic Church, arguing IN FAVOUR of the crucifix, say it is non-religious - then why do they care? I firmly believe the crucifix shouldn't be there, because, as a priest, and not only, I do believe it is religious.

Posted by Sara MacVane at Saturday, 19 March 2011 at 7:30pm GMT

Interesting how evangelicals in Italy joined with the secularists to oppose the crucifix!

Posted by robert ian williams at Sunday, 20 March 2011 at 6:48am GMT

Re RIW: Not what you are thinking of as evangelicals, that's the Italian word for protestants - and yes, they are much better than the Catholics about the separation of church and state, which had its brief time in Italy between Garibaldi and ... Mussolini - fine company .... and of course he was an absolutely a-religious (if not atheist) tyrant who was out for his own interest......

Posted by Sara MacVane at Sunday, 20 March 2011 at 6:09pm GMT

Why "interesting" that the evangelicals joined with the secularists to oppose the crucifix? Evangelicals see the crucifix as a "Catholic" symbol, and therefore to be detested.

Posted by Richard at Sunday, 20 March 2011 at 10:36pm GMT

Probably too late to add anything. But compare this case from Switzerland: Dahlab v Switzerland [2001] Appl. Nr. 42393/9 ( No complaints from anyone about a Muslim woman who wanted to wear a scarf in a nursery school, yet the ban is upheld on grounds of protecting the rights and freedoms of others (who *might* be offended) and of preserving public safety. This court is a rubber stamp for whatever a particular member state wants to do. There is simply no principled way of reconciling these decisions.

Posted by Scot Peterson at Tuesday, 22 March 2011 at 8:39am GMT

It should be noted, the Waldensians ( the historic Protestant church of Italy ) recently voted for gay marriage. Once the darling of English Evangelicals, the Waldensians may now be liberal, but thay are still very anti-Catholic.

Posted by Robert Ian Williams at Wednesday, 23 March 2011 at 6:37am GMT

Thanks for that I looked the Waldensians up, and very much enjoyed reading about them. Inspiring. How had I missed them ?

Their present day successors are, in some sense,the Anabaptists.

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Thursday, 24 March 2011 at 7:46pm GMT

Baptists and evangelicals would like to believe that the Waldensians were a pure line of Christians from the Apostles, but in reality they were a mediaeval heretical quasi monastic movement that was taken over by Swiss Calvinists in the 16th century.

Posted by Robert Ian Williams at Friday, 25 March 2011 at 6:15am GMT

Thou art a real ecumenist Robert. Are those adjectives The Fruit of contemplation and prayer?

See you at Churches Together ?

A pater noster for you.

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Friday, 25 March 2011 at 7:51pm GMT
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