No Crucifixes in Italian Public Schools Anymore

After decades in which Christian crosses were placed in public school classrooms in Italy, it looks like they’ll finally be taken down.

The decision was handed down by a panel of seven judges at the court in Strasbourg. They said that the display of crucifixes, which is common but not mandatory in Italian schools, violated the principle of secular education and might be intimidating for children from other faiths.

“The presence of the crucifix could be … disturbing for pupils who practiced other religions or were atheists, particularly if they belonged to religious minorities,” the court said. “The compulsory display of a symbol of a given confession in premises used by the public authorities… restricted the right of parents to educate their children in conformity with their convictions,” it added.

Crucifixes were an undeniable symbol of Catholicism, the court ruled, and as such were at odds with the principle of “educational pluralism.”

It’s a good move, of course — Get rid of the faith and focus on achieving a real education based in fact.

Not so surprisingly, not everyone is happy with this decision:

The newly-elected head of the main opposition Democratic Party, Pierluigi Bersani, commented that the ruling lacked common sense. “I think a longstanding tradition like the crucifix can’t be offensive to anyone,” he said.

Right… Unless the cross symbolizes how hundreds of millions of people around the world firmly believe you are going to spend eternity in hell because you prefer to think with your brain and not your heart.

Another upside to this decision is that it could start a trend, removing crosses (and other symbols of faith) all across Europe.

Which shouldn’t be a big deal at all. They’re unnecessary in public schools. Keep them at home or church. Good riddance.

(Thanks to Juliette for the link!)

  • Jim

    Yes, good news!

  • silver

    Well, it’s a few decades overdue, but better late than never!Now if we can only convince them and other countries to get rid of all crucifixes in public buildings, not just schools. I’m talking hospitals, government owned buildings, and such

    Last winter, when my dad nearly died of pneumonia and was hospitalized, you have no idea how much it bothered me to see multiple crosses in the room.

    If I hadn’t been worried about my father so badly, I would have complained to the hospital and staff.

    If people complain, then they can bring their own symbols.

  • Valdyr

    At first I was pissed off, and was going to say that students should be allowed to wear whatever jewelry they want. I didn’t know that this would be about quasi-official displays of religious kitsch in the classroom. If any Christians have a problem with this ruling, they should imagine how they would feel about their child seeing an Islamic crescent in the classroom every day. This kind of display sends a clear message to children, whether or not it’s official or mandatory: “Christianity is what the school and your teacher approve of; it’s the best way to be.” The implication is that you don’t fit in if you’re not a Christian, and it’s no different than something like hanging up a political party’s banner.

  • sc0tt

    Crucifixes were an undeniable symbol of Catholicism, the court ruled.

    Somebody should explain that to Scalia.

  • Amyable Atheist

    Great news! Speaking of secular trends in Europe, did you catch the NYT op-ed piece about a week ago speculating that Pope’s conserva-grab at the Anglican Church could have the unintended consequence of progressing Britain towards complete secularism? Sorry for no link but their site doesn’t let me use the search function lately.

    And now if you’ll indulge me, this totally reminds me of a great joke…

    Jimmy was doing poorly in math at the public school so his parents sent him to Catholic school to straighten him out. After his first day of Catholic school, he comes home, goes straight to his room and does his homework immediately. This goes on until his first report card, when he gets an A in math. Delighted, his parents ask what the nuns did differently – was it the discipline? some innovative technique? No, says Jimmy – “when I walked in the first day and saw that guy nailed to the plus sign, I know those nuns meant business!”

    Thank you and remember to tip your server…

  • Richard Wade

    “I think a longstanding tradition like the crucifix can’t be offensive to anyone”

    Why is it that people think that because a bad idea is old, that makes it a good idea? How does the length of the beard on an inappropriate practice make it an appropriate practice?

    Fill in the blank with your own “longstanding tradition”:

    “I think a longstanding tradition like __________ can’t be offensive to anyone.”

    Just a few suggestions:
    forced marriage
    reviling gays
    beating wives
    binding girls’ feet
    burning forests for one season of agriculture
    genital mutilation
    killing apostates
    torturing and killing animals for sport
    infanticide for gender preference
    oppressing minorities
    using rhinoceros horn to enhance erections
    jailing political dissidents
    torturing to extract information
    war

    These can’t be offensive to anyone because they’ve been around for centuries.

  • Amyable Atheist

    Just to clarify, with that joke I didn’t by any mean to imply that (a) Catholic schools are necessarily good at teaching math (especially not in my case!) or that (b) the cross ISN’T a universal symbol of Christianity (for anyone besides the unindoctrinated), because of course it is. There, I fell better, hehe.

  • Tommaso

    I went to public school in Italy K-2nd grade and my parents had to force the admins to offer an alternative class to ‘Religion’ because it was solely focused on catholicism.

    At first it was awkward with other parents (and apparently I complained that I wanted to be in Religion class because I wanted to be with my friends), but eventually more and more parents started sending their kids to ‘Alternative’ class where we talked about ancient stories myths and the morals that they teach.

    I had to go back to public schools to take my Middle School accreditation exam and had a really hard time concentrating with the bloody christ on the wall. Keep in mind, this is the full on gory catholic christ, not the barren protestant cross. Pretty gross to be staring at while trying to remember how to do multiplication problems.

  • MH

    Without the crucifixes how will they keep the vampires away? Won’t someone think of the children?

  • Edmond

    Religion… is… DYING!!

  • http://pinkydead.blogspot.com pinkydead

    “I think a longstanding tradition like the crucifix can’t be offensive to anyone”

    Maybe he has a point. He should at least be given the opportunity to test this viewpoint – that’s really the only fair option.

    So if he can’t find anyone who finds it offensive then they should be allowed to keep their zombie sticks.

    Wait, the results are in already: at least two people find it offensive – Soile Lautsi and me.

  • Devil’s Advocate

    I am an athiest, but I must say that I am saddened by some of the comments on here. Like Dawkins, I consider myself a cultural christian, in that I acknowledge the effect that this religion had on the shaping European history, culture and philosophies and thus, ultimately, me.

    I can listen to the cantatas of Bach offered for the greater glory of god without mocking his beliefs. I can revel in the physical and allegorical beauty of Michalangelo’s pieta without scoffing at the immaculate conception and resurrection. I certainly would not want to see something like Chatres turned into something gaudy and obscene.

    The crucifix does symobolise christianity, yet get away from the trappings of the religion, the supernatural being, the horrific biblia, there is an inherent nobility to christ and some of his followers. This aspect (love) motivated men and women to do great things. Admittedly other aspects have also inspired terrible, however right they thought they were.

    I think that athiests getting too gleeful at sticking the boot into the benighted enlightened are in grave danger of repeating the latter. Many of us think that we are doing the right thing, ignoring the example of those who did as we do, though motivated differently.

    Getting rid of crucifixes on all public buildings demonstrates too much willingness to dismiss the past and the way in which it has shaped us and society. Pulling down the old icons to deify the new is obscene and alienates the moderate elements in society at the expense of an antagonistic minority swelling at their own self-importance. It is downright Orwellian.

    People who demand that things be pulled down should be ignored, especially if they do so because said object ‘offends’ them. People need to stop being so bloody precious and deal with it, everyone should be offended at least once a day. Besides, I was educated at a Catholic school, devout as can be until I read the bible when I was 12 and could not reconcile it and articles of faith with science. Crucifixes on walls certainly did not oppress me if I ever noticed them at all.

  • muggle

    I concur. Good riddance.

    I also concur with Edmond. Religion is dying. The horrors we are seeing now are its death throes. It doesn’t go down without a fight — unfortunately.

    And crippled or not, if I live to see its demise, I am going to join the dancing in the street!


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