Monday, 1 February 2010

Italy Asks for Referral to Grand Chamber of Crucifix Case

Just a few days before the three months deadline, Italy asked last week for referral of the case of Lautsi to the Grand Chamber of the Court. At the beginning of November last year, the Court had found that the compulsory presence of crucifixes in classrooms of public schools violated the ECHR. See my earlier comment here. Amongst others, the request for referral contends that the Chamber's judgment was in contradiction with earlier Court case-law, leaves too little margin of appreciation, and - following the reactions in many European countries - is obviously a serious issue of general importance (one of the criteria in Article 43 ECHR for referral). I think it would be very good if the Court, through the Grand Chamber, would make a new assessment of the case, since this is indeed a question with many ramifications and a very thoughtful (and maybe more pragmatic approach) is called for here.

Thank you to Nicola Bassan for pointing this out!


Anonymous said...

If I may add something to your post I should say that the Italian attitude towards this issue is a bit misperceived abroad. It's true that probably the vast majority of my fellow citizens favour having the crucifix; but there are two others interesting points. It should be noted that the law was completely ignored until 10 years ago and actually many schools never had crucifixes. That was the situation before the leader of the greatest Muslim association in Italy denounced the (scarcely observed) rule. This led immediately to a (Italian style) political debate in which Muslims were accused of trying to "culturally invade" Italy. That's why, at least in my humble opinion, my country reacted so strongly against the sentence. The European Court (that, by the way, most of our opinion makers misrepresented as an EU institution) was perceived as aligning with immigrants. This hasn't anything to do with our Catholic heritage. On the contrary, I'd say that our religious heritage suffered a major bow last week when survey results concerning gay unions and euthanasia were diffused (needles to say a huge majority favoured both).

And let me add a last (polemic) point, if I may. Unfortunately the hate (I couldn't describe it differently) towards Muslims and immigrants is also partly due to many years of "lack of interest" from the two European institutions that, at least in their words, should be founded on human rights. You might take this (and the recent news coming from south and north Italy) as a warning of what is going to happen in the future.


Mario Di Carlo said...

To the Council of Europe

To the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe

To the European Court of Human Rights

Public letter on “Lautsi v. Italy” caseRome, February 2nd 2010.

Dear Sir/Madame,
We, Italian and European citizens and associations, are writing to you in order to let other Europeans listen to our voice loud and clear.
On November 3rd last the European Court of Human Rights, second section, took an important decision on the case Lautsi v. Italy, granting protection not only to the rights of Mrs. Lautsi and her kins but also to our rights and those of millions of Italian and European citizens.
The question under discussion was the imposition for students in Italy to attend lessons in classrooms dominated by the Crucifix, a religious symbol. This imposition has been found a violation of articles 9 of the European Convention for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms and 2 of the First Additional Protocol.
The political debate that followed in Italy has been vicious and violent against non-believers, non-Catholics, heterodox Catholics and, last but not least, the judges of the European Court of Human Rights.
Individually and on behalf of the thousands members of our groups and millions of other Italians we would like to thank the European Court and apologize for the insulting behaviour of Italian government members. We hereby dissociate ourselves from their speeches and comments.
Our country suffers more and more the political influence of the hierarchy of the Catholic church. The fewer people follow their directives the more they demand, call for privilege and taxpayers’ money, raise their voice in order to impose their will on non-Catholics’ lives and behaviours. Moreover most political leaders are keen to accept their requests disrespectful of rights and liberties, lives and personal stories, beliefs and choices of millions of citizens. That’s by now the rule, for example, regarding religious symbols, religious teaching in schools, legal protection for same sex couples, freedom of marriage, freedom of divorce, medically assisted procreation, advanced healthcare directives, living wills, public funding of Catholic religious activities.
Some of us are believers and we all do respect believers, but we cannot accept one religion, not even the most powerful, to be imposed to everyone.
This principle of religious freedom and secularity of public institutions (laicità) is enshrined in the Italian Constitution itself, is part of our history as Italian and European citizens. With the help of our fellow Europeans we will do our best to keep our pace on the road of freedom, democracy, equal social dignity for everybody.


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