25 mars 2011

European Court of Human Rights re-decorates the classrooms with crucifixes, Lautsi v Italy, 30814/06

By the majority of 15 versus 2, the Grand Chamber of the European Human Rights Court annulled the unanimous 7-judges judgement of the Chamber that had declared the presence of crucifixes in Italian classrooms contrary to the right to education and to the freedom of conscience. 10 Governments attacked atheists and non-Christians before the Grand Chamber. It is notable that the Italian judge and the Swiss judge of Italian origin were against the crucifixes.

The annulled judgement was motivated with the fact that in small Italian towns the parents who do not wish their kids to study in classrooms decorated with crucifixes do not have a choice – there are no alternative schools. The Grand Chamber replied that this is a matter of national discretion. The classical discretion argument is supported with the statement that there is no sufficient international consensus on this issue: crucifixes are present in schools of 4 States over 47.

The Grand Chamber also presented several smaller arguments: despite the crucifixes, Italians do not forbid women to wear the headscarves, Muslims are allowed to celebrate the end of Ramadan, and there is no general persecution of atheists or non-Christians.

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