From The Ottawa Citizen
Italians outraged by classroom crucifix ban
Court rules icons in schools may disturb non-Christians
Italy reacted furiously Tuesday to a European Court of Human Rights ruling that crucifixes should not be displayed in schools, with the government condemning the “pagan” move and calling it an attack on the nation’s history and culture.
The ruling by the court in Strasbourg, which Italy said it would appeal, said crucifixes on school walls — a common sight that is part of every Italian’s life — could disturb children who were not Christians.
Italy has been in the throes of national debate on how to deal with a growing population of immigrants, mostly Muslims, and the court sentence is likely to become another battle cry for the centre-right government’s policy to restrict newcomers.
“This is an abhorrent ruling,” said Rocco Buttiglione, a former culture minister who helped write papal encyclicals. “It must be rejected with firmness. Italy has its culture, its traditions and its history. Those who come among us must understand and accept this culture and this history.”
A Vatican spokesman said it was sad the crucifix could be considered a symbol of division and said religion offered a vital contribution to the moral formation of people.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi added that it was “wrong and myopic” to try to exclude a symbol of charity from education.
Members of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s government bristled, weighing in with words such as “shameful,” “offensive,” “absurd,” “unacceptable,” and “pagan.”
Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said the court had dealt a “mortal blow to a Europe of values and rights,” adding that it was a bad precedent for other countries.
The case was brought by an Italian national, Soile Lautsi, who complained that her children had to attend a public school in northern Italy that had crucifixes in every room.
Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini said crucifixes on the walls of tens of thousands of classrooms “do not mean adherence to Catholicism,” but are a symbol of Italy’s heritage. “If we erase symbols we erase part of ourselves,” she said.