Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Cruxifix in the Classroom Judgment

Religious symbols in public places have been a bone of contention in public discussions in many places around the world. Yesterday, the European Court added its contribution in the judgment Lautsi v. Italy. (Appl.no. 30814/06). The case concerned a complaint by a mother of children of 11 and 13 years old that the public school which they attended had a crucifix in each classroom. She contended that this was contrary to secularist principles by which she wanted to raise her children. Italian laws and regulations, partly dating from the Mussolini era, obliged public schools to display the crucifix in classrooms. In the Strasbourg proceedings Italy had argued that that the crucifix was not only a religious symbol, but also a symbol of Italian state and culture and therefore even could represent secularism. The reasoning of the Italian state, summarised in the judgment, is worth reading for the mere curiosity of its logic alone (even if one may understand the underlying concerns). The Court disagreed and found - unanimously - a violation of the freedom of religion (Art. 9 ECHR) jointly with the right to education (Art. 2 of Protocol 1). The Court, amongst others, took into account the nature of the religious symbol concerned (amongst the plurality of meanings, the Court held that the religious connotation of the crucifix was dominant) and its impact on young children. In two of the key paragraphs (para. 55-56) the Court held that the demands of pluralism in public schools called for a change in the Italian situation:

55. La présence du crucifix peut aisément être interprétée par des élèves de tous âges comme un signe religieux et ils se sentiront éduqués dans un environnement scolaire marqué par une religion donnée. Ce qui peut être encourageant pour certains élèves religieux, peut être perturbant émotionnellement pour des élèves d'autres religions ou ceux qui ne professent aucune religion. Ce risque est particulièrement présent chez les élèves appartenant à des minorités religieuses. La liberté négative n'est pas limitée à l'absence de services religieux ou d'enseignement religieux. Elle s'étend aux pratiques et aux symboles exprimant, en particulier ou en général, une croyance, une religion ou l'athéisme. Ce droit négatif mérite une protection particulière si c'est l'Etat qui exprime une croyance et si la personne est placée dans une situation dont elle ne peut se dégager ou seulement en consentant des efforts et un sacrifice disproportionnés.

56. L'exposition d'un ou plusieurs symboles religieux ne peut se justifier ni par la demande d'autres parents qui souhaitent une éducation religieuse conforme à leurs convictions, ni, comme le Gouvernement le soutient, par la nécessité d'un compromis nécessaire avec les partis politiques d'inspiration chrétienne. Le respect des convictions de parents en matière d'éducation doit prendre en compte le respect des convictions des autres parents. L'Etat est tenu à la neutralité confessionnelle dans le cadre de l'éducation publique obligatoire où la présence aux cours est requise sans considération de religion et qui doit chercher à inculquer aux élèves une pensée critique.

La Cour ne voit pas comment l'exposition, dans des salles de classe des écoles publiques, d'un symbole qu'il est raisonnable d'associer au catholicisme (la religion majoritaire en Italie) pourrait servir le pluralisme éducatif qui est essentiel à la préservation d'une « société démocratique » telle que la conçoit la Convention, pluralisme qui a été reconnu par la Cour constitutionnelle en droit interne.
One may note, that the Court thinks this applies in general in the exercise of public functions by the state and particularly (but not solely) in classrooms.

Italy has already indicated that it wants the Grand Chamber of the Court to have a look at the case. Even if the judgment was unanimous - which would decrease chances for reconsideration - this could happen since it is an issue which can be considered of major importance in many ECHR state parties. In addition, a bit more clarity would be welcome on the extent to which this judgment should be explained as a complete and aboslute ban on religious symbols in public schools (as the reasoning of the judgment seems to argue towards that conclusion) or simply that the obligation for public schools to display such symbols is contrary to the Convention (as the final part of the judgment seems to indicate as one of the key reasons for concluding that the Convention was violated). The judgment seems to lean towards the first of these two explanations. Some pragmatism might be called for here and this will certainly not be the end of the discussion of this issue.

For coverage in the European press, see the article in yesterday's Guardian newspaper here and in Le Monde here. Both newpapers report that the Italian government has classified the Court's ruling as ideologically motivated. The judgment has provoked strong reactions amongst Italians themselves as well, with a on online petition being signed by tens of thousands of people within a day. This is the report from the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, in which - one may note - the nationality of all the judges in the Chamber are mentioned (sic!).

13 comments:

Andreea said...

This is quite interesting, thanks for the quick report.

I really hope the judgment will be clarified as referring to the ban on religious symbols in all public institutions, to be honest. I think religion and politics/schools/administration should not interfere, but unfortunately I live in a country where the Italian story depicted in this case is nothing. That means Romania, which is already in the "top performers" when it comes to ECHR cases. We are now in the campaign for the election of the president, and most of the candidates are showing off with priests and religious-related ideas. Only one of the candidates supports the exclusion of the religious symbols from schools, and this got him a terrible reaction from the narrow-minded religious people. All of a sudden nothing else matters about him other than that he is anti-religion, go figure...

Anonymous said...

Very interesting judgment. I wonder when the Court will consider national flags with a cross inside in violation of art. 9. Those national flags are clear religious symbols. Ban them all!

Paolo said...

Dear Andreea,

unfortunatly it's not that true that our situation is nothing if compared to the one you are living in. Actually, your "electoral bigotry" example fits in the case of Italy as well (and I fear we are not even among the top performers of ECRH judgements!). The fact that almost every single italian politician - from left to right - criticized the Court judgement is quite telling about the state of the art of italian secularist culture.

Toni said...

I am afraid I don't agree with you.
In my opinion, this is not so much a question of whether, in the abstract, crucifixes should be removed from schools.
The true question here - and one that, I fear, leaves room for serious doubt - is whether the ECHR has not overstepped its powers...

Andreea said...

Ok, Paolo, we can share :)
Can you please give me a link to reactions of officials toward this judgment?

Anonymous said...

Secularism is also a kind of religion or worldview. Who says that excluding all religious symbols is the right thing to do? Maybe the symbols of all pupil's religions should be present?

The exclusion option is what the secularists want. Why should their wants be more important than the wants of other people, religious people?

Secularist are not in the majority and the can not get what they want through democracy. That's why they are using courts and abusing the idea of human rights to get what they want.

Secularists feel nothing contempt for people of faith. Andreea and Paolo have just demonstrated this. Why do you speak about those "narrow-minded religious people"?

To Paolo the fact that so many politicians have criticized the judgement is showing something bad about them.

But you should ask yourself: Why do you want to enforce your own ideology of secularism on people who do not want it? Should you not reconsider if there is such great opposition?

Andreea said...

Dear Anonymous,
You have completely misunderstood what I wrote. The narrow-mindedness is not in being religious, it's in trying to break whatever and whoever is not religious. This is what happens every day in my country, and what I see is that (just like worldwide, actually) the religious people act extreme, not the "secularists" as you call them.

Besides, many countries (such as Romania) actually have a law regulating that the state is neutral to all religious or atheist beliefs and that there is no national religion.

myrtle said...

Andreaa, I could not agree more. Secularism is not a religious view. The intolerance and aggression from religious groups towards those who favour secularism or who are simply atheists is growing and more threatening than this ECHR judgement. Secularism does not force anything on religious people, it is indeed offering the right to every religious person to exercise their religion. This problem relates only to the Christians. As there were no other symbols next to the crucifix (David star, crescent etc). so this is more about "either all or none".

Paolo said...

Andreea,
I suppose there are better things to share in life!! :-)
Anyway, this is a not exhaustive list of reactions (in italian, sorry) by a number of italian MPs and other public figures:

http://www.uaar.it/news/2009/11/03/no-europeo-crocifisso-reazioni/

I agree with your answer to the anonymous, especially when you remarked that he/she completely missed the point. In my opinion it's not (at least, not only) the mere criticizing of the judgement that revealed something bad in italian politicians. Something worst is shown when considering the purposes they aimed at when they rendered those declarations. Believe me, anonymous: no sincerity in their words. And please consider that the majority criterion is not the most suitable (neither the more just) when it comes to assess the validity of a social doctrine.

Andreea said...

Thanks, Paolo. I expected the link will be in Italian, but I can understand it quite well.

ISPAS SABIN said...

PETITIE,







MA NUMESC ISPAS SABIN MARIUS DIN TG-JIU JUD.GORJ,STRADA MINERILOR , BLOC 4 , SCARA 4 , APARTAMENT78 , IN VARSTA DE 39 DE ANI , PENSIONAT PE CAZ DE BOALA .

CONFORM CERTIFICATULUI MEDICAL NR.424/10 DIN 26.01.1993

SI NR.8130/4 DIN 30.09.2008 , AM FOST DIAGNOSTICAT CU O BOALA INCURABILA DIN NASTERE LA INIMA,DAR NU MI S-A STABILIT,,LEGATURA CAUZALA,,PENTRU A NU PRIMI PENSIE MILITARA IAR CEI DIN COMISII M-AU MINTIT…PENTRU A CONTINUA STAGIUL MILITAR IN LOCUL ALTUI INDIVID…AM EXECUTAT STAGIUL MILITAR,DE OPERAT NU M-AU OPERAT,TRATAMENT N-AM PRIMIT DE NICI UN FEL IAR DUPA NENUMARATE MEMORII FACUTE DE TATAL MEU SI DE MINE AM FOST SI SUNT UMILIT DE TOATE INSTITUTIILE…MILITARE.

DEOARECE NU AM CONTRACT DE MUNCA CU M.A.N.[ARMATA FIIND OBLIGATORIE] AVOCATII VOR MULTI BANI…

VA ROG SA MA AJUTATI CU ASISTENTA JURIDICA SAU POLITIC DEOARECE NU POT FACE FATA CHIAR UNUI PROCES , UNDE NU SUNT SUSTINUT DE NICIO LEGE SAU INSTITUTIE (IN VEDEREA DOAMNEI JUDECATOR LAURA ANDRI , VICEPRESEDINTE TRIBUNALUL BUCURESTI).













PETITION











MY NAME IS ISPAS SABIN MARIUS , FROM ROMANIA , COUNTY GORJ , CITY TG-JIU , STREET MINERILOR ,BL.4 , SC.4 ,AP.78 , OLD 38 YEARS.ACCONDING TO THE MEDICAL CERTIFICATE NUMBER 424/10 OF 26.01.1993 AND NUMBER 8130 /4 OF 30.09.2008 I WAS DIAGNOSTEDWITH AN INCURABLE DISEASE OF HEART FROM BIRTH , BUT IT DIDN`T ESTABLE THE CAUSALE CONNECT NOT TO RECEIVE MILITARY PENSION AND THOSE OF MILITARY COMMISSION HAVE LIED TO ME…FOR ME TO CONTINUE MILITARY STAGE INSTEAD OF ANOTHED PERSON.

I HAVE EXECUTED THE MILITARY STAGE,ALTHOUGH I DIDN`T OPERATED AND I DIDN`T RECEIVED TREATMENT AT ALL , AND AFTER MANY MADE MEMORIES OF MY FATHER AND ME, I WAS AND I AM HUMILIATED BY ALL INTITUTIONS …INELUDING THE MILITARY INSTITUTIONS.BECAUSE I DIDN`T HAVE ANY CONTRACT ( THE ARMY BEING REQUIRED ) WITH THE ARMY I CAN`T SENT TO TRIAL.

PLEASE HELP ME ORDER FOR LEGAL AID.



DAY OF 16.12.2009 TEL.0767.537.051 SIGNATURE ISPAS.S.M.

ISPAS SABIN said...

PETITIE,







MA NUMESC ISPAS SABIN MARIUS DIN TG-JIU JUD.GORJ,STRADA MINERILOR , BLOC 4 , SCARA 4 , APARTAMENT78 , IN VARSTA DE 39 DE ANI , PENSIONAT PE CAZ DE BOALA .

CONFORM CERTIFICATULUI MEDICAL NR.424/10 DIN 26.01.1993

SI NR.8130/4 DIN 30.09.2008 , AM FOST DIAGNOSTICAT CU O BOALA INCURABILA DIN NASTERE LA INIMA,DAR NU MI S-A STABILIT,,LEGATURA CAUZALA,,PENTRU A NU PRIMI PENSIE MILITARA IAR CEI DIN COMISII M-AU MINTIT…PENTRU A CONTINUA STAGIUL MILITAR IN LOCUL ALTUI INDIVID…AM EXECUTAT STAGIUL MILITAR,DE OPERAT NU M-AU OPERAT,TRATAMENT N-AM PRIMIT DE NICI UN FEL IAR DUPA NENUMARATE MEMORII FACUTE DE TATAL MEU SI DE MINE AM FOST SI SUNT UMILIT DE TOATE INSTITUTIILE…MILITARE.

DEOARECE NU AM CONTRACT DE MUNCA CU M.A.N.[ARMATA FIIND OBLIGATORIE] AVOCATII VOR MULTI BANI…

VA ROG SA MA AJUTATI CU ASISTENTA JURIDICA SAU POLITIC DEOARECE NU POT FACE FATA CHIAR UNUI PROCES , UNDE NU SUNT SUSTINUT DE NICIO LEGE SAU INSTITUTIE (IN VEDEREA DOAMNEI JUDECATOR LAURA ANDRI , VICEPRESEDINTE TRIBUNALUL BUCURESTI).













PETITION











MY NAME IS ISPAS SABIN MARIUS , FROM ROMANIA , COUNTY GORJ , CITY TG-JIU , STREET MINERILOR ,BL.4 , SC.4 ,AP.78 , OLD 38 YEARS.ACCONDING TO THE MEDICAL CERTIFICATE NUMBER 424/10 OF 26.01.1993 AND NUMBER 8130 /4 OF 30.09.2008 I WAS DIAGNOSTEDWITH AN INCURABLE DISEASE OF HEART FROM BIRTH , BUT IT DIDN`T ESTABLE THE CAUSALE CONNECT NOT TO RECEIVE MILITARY PENSION AND THOSE OF MILITARY COMMISSION HAVE LIED TO ME…FOR ME TO CONTINUE MILITARY STAGE INSTEAD OF ANOTHED PERSON.

I HAVE EXECUTED THE MILITARY STAGE,ALTHOUGH I DIDN`T OPERATED AND I DIDN`T RECEIVED TREATMENT AT ALL , AND AFTER MANY MADE MEMORIES OF MY FATHER AND ME, I WAS AND I AM HUMILIATED BY ALL INTITUTIONS …INELUDING THE MILITARY INSTITUTIONS.BECAUSE I DIDN`T HAVE ANY CONTRACT ( THE ARMY BEING REQUIRED ) WITH THE ARMY I CAN`T SENT TO TRIAL.

PLEASE HELP ME ORDER FOR LEGAL AID.



DAY OF 16.12.2009 TEL.0767.537.051 SIGNATURE ISPAS.S.M.

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