Euro-court OKs crucifixes in public schools

The European Court of Human Rights has overturned a lower court’s decision to outlaw crucifixes in Italy’s public schools.  Not only that, the court ruled that Christianity is, in fact, the religious foundation of European civilization, a fact that need not be hidden.

The Grand Chamber ruling. . .recognizes that “human rights must not be placed in opposition to the religious foundations of European civilisation”. rules

The decision is an affirmation of the respect owed to each country of the European Union for “the religious symbols of its cultural history and national identity” and for national decisions on how the symbols can and should be displayed, Fr Lombardi said.

A lack of respect, he said, would lead to a situation in which, “in the name of religious liberty, paradoxically one would limit or even deny this freedom, ending up excluding every expression of it from the public sphere”.

via Vatican welcomes European court decision on crucifixes  | CatholicHerald.co.uk.

Would that same reasoning apply in the United States of America?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Pete

    If the religious expression we’re protecting includes such things as wearing crucifixes, forehead dots, eschewing cars for horse and buggy, passing out literature in places where the passing out of literature is authorized, pulling out a rug and praying daily Mecca-ward, chanting, posting billboards touting atheism or tacking theses (95 or, however many) to public posting places, it’s all good.
    When the expression of your religion involves terrorism, however, heightened scrutiny and restriction is in order.

  • Pete

    If the religious expression we’re protecting includes such things as wearing crucifixes, forehead dots, eschewing cars for horse and buggy, passing out literature in places where the passing out of literature is authorized, pulling out a rug and praying daily Mecca-ward, chanting, posting billboards touting atheism or tacking theses (95 or, however many) to public posting places, it’s all good.
    When the expression of your religion involves terrorism, however, heightened scrutiny and restriction is in order.

  • Pete

    How did the Europeans manage to get this one right? Lucky shot?

  • Pete

    How did the Europeans manage to get this one right? Lucky shot?

  • http://www.Utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Do we want to let it apply in America?
    I think the larger question is what this might do to the laws in France where Islamic dress has been forbidden in schools. Will muslims there now be able to dress traditionally in schools? Or is this homage to the culture of the country going to allow only the religious expression of the majority?

  • http://www.Utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Do we want to let it apply in America?
    I think the larger question is what this might do to the laws in France where Islamic dress has been forbidden in schools. Will muslims there now be able to dress traditionally in schools? Or is this homage to the culture of the country going to allow only the religious expression of the majority?

  • steve

    Bror,

    As far as I know, the hijab, or more specifically the niqab worn over the face, is not illegal in the US or in Italy. Some municipalities have tried to ban it but I think they’ve all failed. I personally would like a return to school uniforms. Barring that, I don’t see anything wrong with a muslim girl wearing traditional dress in schools and I certainly don’t see anything wrong with wearing a cross or crucifix.

  • steve

    Bror,

    As far as I know, the hijab, or more specifically the niqab worn over the face, is not illegal in the US or in Italy. Some municipalities have tried to ban it but I think they’ve all failed. I personally would like a return to school uniforms. Barring that, I don’t see anything wrong with a muslim girl wearing traditional dress in schools and I certainly don’t see anything wrong with wearing a cross or crucifix.

  • steve

    Bror, my apologies. I forgot to mention the country to which you were referring. I think at least France is being consistent. I can see the niqab being problematic in cases of identification, like taking pictures for drivers licenses and such, but it seems overkill to ban it altogether.

  • steve

    Bror, my apologies. I forgot to mention the country to which you were referring. I think at least France is being consistent. I can see the niqab being problematic in cases of identification, like taking pictures for drivers licenses and such, but it seems overkill to ban it altogether.

  • kerner

    “Would that same reasoning apply in the United States of America”

    The short answer is “No”.

    Even in Italy, I think it would be of great benefit to that country if more individual Italians believed the theology of the Cross, and that might lead to some outward show of faith, such as wearing crosses as something other than jewelry.

    But displaying crosses that are meaningless to most Italians in public schools as a indication of an historical cultural heritage (as opposed to faith) is only a superficial triumph of form over substance. I don’t see what good it does.

  • kerner

    “Would that same reasoning apply in the United States of America”

    The short answer is “No”.

    Even in Italy, I think it would be of great benefit to that country if more individual Italians believed the theology of the Cross, and that might lead to some outward show of faith, such as wearing crosses as something other than jewelry.

    But displaying crosses that are meaningless to most Italians in public schools as a indication of an historical cultural heritage (as opposed to faith) is only a superficial triumph of form over substance. I don’t see what good it does.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    “Hey, we’re not putting this crucifix up because anyone here believes in that stuff. It’s just a remarkably vague reminder of the history of this location, and that there once were people who believed in this stuff. No need to get offended. It’s just a cross.”

    So will we be seeing crescents-and-stars popping up in southern Spain?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    “Hey, we’re not putting this crucifix up because anyone here believes in that stuff. It’s just a remarkably vague reminder of the history of this location, and that there once were people who believed in this stuff. No need to get offended. It’s just a cross.”

    So will we be seeing crescents-and-stars popping up in southern Spain?

  • DonS

    Stunner! The Italian high court acknowledges that crucifixes are historically important in Italian history, and that kids have the right to learn a little bit about their country’s heritage.

    Of course, it was the right decision for Italy, the host of Vatican City, headquarters for the most important religion in world history. My goodness, it’s insane that anyone would even posit that kids in public schools cannot learn portions of history that touch on historical religious faith.

    The same reasoning, of course, applies to the U.S., and the courts have so held. The problem is that the ACLU and other rabid secularists misrepresent the law and scare the schools away from the legitimate teaching of history, including the faith that historical people practiced. As long as the displays are not intended to, in any way, imply that the State is establishing a particular religious faith as the State religion, or promoting the current practice of one faith over another, the school is free to teach history.

    Of course, as I said above, most schools are too gutless to do so, because they know they will be intimidated and potentially sued by secularists, so as a result we have a whole generation of kids who have a very distorted view of history.

    Too bad.

  • DonS

    Stunner! The Italian high court acknowledges that crucifixes are historically important in Italian history, and that kids have the right to learn a little bit about their country’s heritage.

    Of course, it was the right decision for Italy, the host of Vatican City, headquarters for the most important religion in world history. My goodness, it’s insane that anyone would even posit that kids in public schools cannot learn portions of history that touch on historical religious faith.

    The same reasoning, of course, applies to the U.S., and the courts have so held. The problem is that the ACLU and other rabid secularists misrepresent the law and scare the schools away from the legitimate teaching of history, including the faith that historical people practiced. As long as the displays are not intended to, in any way, imply that the State is establishing a particular religious faith as the State religion, or promoting the current practice of one faith over another, the school is free to teach history.

    Of course, as I said above, most schools are too gutless to do so, because they know they will be intimidated and potentially sued by secularists, so as a result we have a whole generation of kids who have a very distorted view of history.

    Too bad.

  • Louis

    I agree with Don @ 8.

    Todd, of course that is a loaded question, but the fact is that the Moors in Spain are viewed as an occupying force, and that the culture in Spain is historically more aligned with Rome than with Mecca. So no, I don’t expect Islamic symbols in Spain & Portugal. They might pop-up in Bosnia, Albania and Kosovo, though, although the history there is a tad messier…

  • Louis

    I agree with Don @ 8.

    Todd, of course that is a loaded question, but the fact is that the Moors in Spain are viewed as an occupying force, and that the culture in Spain is historically more aligned with Rome than with Mecca. So no, I don’t expect Islamic symbols in Spain & Portugal. They might pop-up in Bosnia, Albania and Kosovo, though, although the history there is a tad messier…

  • Porcell

    I agree with Kerner on this. In American public schools it would be a matter of shallow form over substance. Also, it would be a violation of decent pluralism in relation to other religions.

  • Porcell

    I agree with Kerner on this. In American public schools it would be a matter of shallow form over substance. Also, it would be a violation of decent pluralism in relation to other religions.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@8), you have created a remarkable straw man, there! Yowza!

    “The Italian high court acknowledges that … kids have the right to learn a little bit about their country’s heritage. … It’s insane that anyone would even posit that kids in public schools cannot learn portions of history that touch on historical religious faith.”

    This story isn’t about what kids are or aren’t learning in school, Don. It’s not about history lessons. It’s about whether or not a religious item can hang on the wall of a public school. End of story. The crucifix was not an object in a history lesson. It did not have a caption card explaining its historical and cultural significance.

    Try not to let your rabid feelings against the ACLU inform your reading of this story.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@8), you have created a remarkable straw man, there! Yowza!

    “The Italian high court acknowledges that … kids have the right to learn a little bit about their country’s heritage. … It’s insane that anyone would even posit that kids in public schools cannot learn portions of history that touch on historical religious faith.”

    This story isn’t about what kids are or aren’t learning in school, Don. It’s not about history lessons. It’s about whether or not a religious item can hang on the wall of a public school. End of story. The crucifix was not an object in a history lesson. It did not have a caption card explaining its historical and cultural significance.

    Try not to let your rabid feelings against the ACLU inform your reading of this story.

  • steve

    Porcell,

    Would the same then not apply to depictions of Lady Justice in courthouses? Such things neither offend my religion, personally, nor diminish my appreciation for the role classical mythology played in our heritage. Nor has anyone else seemed to make much of an uproar about it. People simply see it for what it is.

  • steve

    Porcell,

    Would the same then not apply to depictions of Lady Justice in courthouses? Such things neither offend my religion, personally, nor diminish my appreciation for the role classical mythology played in our heritage. Nor has anyone else seemed to make much of an uproar about it. People simply see it for what it is.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 11: A straw man? How? As far as I can tell, the basis for the appeal was that “Italy and more than a dozen other countries fought the original ruling, contending the crucifix is a symbol of the continent’s historic and cultural roots.” Here is a link to an AP story on the appellate court’s reversal of the lower court ruling in 2009 http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gNxQE9BQNENvWThGmiqKeTXl9k0Q?docId=c0c9fe02aea44f8eb952980f8acdccfb

    So your position is that the crucifix cannot serve as a learning tool, absent a “caption card”? And, how do you know that “The crucifix was not an object in a history lesson”? I believe the court ruled that, indeed, it was.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 11: A straw man? How? As far as I can tell, the basis for the appeal was that “Italy and more than a dozen other countries fought the original ruling, contending the crucifix is a symbol of the continent’s historic and cultural roots.” Here is a link to an AP story on the appellate court’s reversal of the lower court ruling in 2009 http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gNxQE9BQNENvWThGmiqKeTXl9k0Q?docId=c0c9fe02aea44f8eb952980f8acdccfb

    So your position is that the crucifix cannot serve as a learning tool, absent a “caption card”? And, how do you know that “The crucifix was not an object in a history lesson”? I believe the court ruled that, indeed, it was.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Louis (@9), why do you assert that the court’s argument relies on assessing whether a particular religion was an “occupying force”? The arguments being made here hinge on Christianity’s important influence on the culture. There is no question that Islam had a similar influence in Southern Spain.

    But hey, I’m just saying what other news articles out there are saying:

    “Friday’s reversal has implications in 47 countries, opening the way for Europeans who want religious symbols in classrooms to petition their governments to allow them.”[1]

    The court’s “decisions affect all 47 countries that are members of the Council of Europe, the continent’s human rights watchdog. Citizens in other Council of Europe countries who want religious symbols in classrooms could now use this ruling as a legal argument in national courts, or governments could use this as a justification to change their laws about religious symbols.”[2]

    You can call my question “loaded”, but I do not think it is therefore all that improbable.

    [1]news.yahoo.com/s/ap/eu_europe_classroom_crucifixes
    [2]foxnews.com/world/2011/03/18/european-court-crucifixes-acceptable-classrooms/

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Louis (@9), why do you assert that the court’s argument relies on assessing whether a particular religion was an “occupying force”? The arguments being made here hinge on Christianity’s important influence on the culture. There is no question that Islam had a similar influence in Southern Spain.

    But hey, I’m just saying what other news articles out there are saying:

    “Friday’s reversal has implications in 47 countries, opening the way for Europeans who want religious symbols in classrooms to petition their governments to allow them.”[1]

    The court’s “decisions affect all 47 countries that are members of the Council of Europe, the continent’s human rights watchdog. Citizens in other Council of Europe countries who want religious symbols in classrooms could now use this ruling as a legal argument in national courts, or governments could use this as a justification to change their laws about religious symbols.”[2]

    You can call my question “loaded”, but I do not think it is therefore all that improbable.

    [1]news.yahoo.com/s/ap/eu_europe_classroom_crucifixes
    [2]foxnews.com/world/2011/03/18/european-court-crucifixes-acceptable-classrooms/

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@13), I already told you “how” it was a straw man argument. So this will sound repetitive.

    You said, “Kids have the right to learn a little bit about their country’s heritage.” Again, no one is disputing that here. The lower court did not quash a class or lesson time in which kids “learn a little bit about their country’s heritage”, including religion.

    You also said, “It’s insane that anyone would even posit that kids in public schools cannot learn portions of history that touch on historical religious faith.” Again, I agree that would be “insane” — but no one is “positing” that! No one!

    Do you really not see how much of a straw man your argument is? This is not about history lessons, Don!

    “How do you know that ‘The crucifix was not an object in a history lesson’? I believe the court ruled that, indeed, it was.”

    Are you saying that an Italian teacher actually made reference to the crucifix as part of his daily lesson? Because the ruling makes clear that the reason the crucifix had been there was that several historical Italian governments (interestingly including the Fascists) had required all Italian classrooms to have crucifixes. And not as a teaching aid, but as a religious symbol.

    But hey, I’ll quote from the court’s own press release:

    There was no evidence before the Court that the display of such a symbol on classroom walls might have an influence on pupils. … The Italian Government submitted that the presence of crucifixes in State-school classrooms now corresponded to a tradition which they considered it important to perpetuate. … [The Court] observed that a crucifix on a wall was an essentially passive symbol whose influence on pupils was not comparable to that of didactic speech or participation in religious activities.

    “No evidence [of] influence.” “An essentially passive symbol.”

    Learn, children! Learn of your heritage! By gazing upon this passive symbol which was put here by tradition of the Italian government! We won’t actually make reference to it, but that’s your history lesson for today!

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@13), I already told you “how” it was a straw man argument. So this will sound repetitive.

    You said, “Kids have the right to learn a little bit about their country’s heritage.” Again, no one is disputing that here. The lower court did not quash a class or lesson time in which kids “learn a little bit about their country’s heritage”, including religion.

    You also said, “It’s insane that anyone would even posit that kids in public schools cannot learn portions of history that touch on historical religious faith.” Again, I agree that would be “insane” — but no one is “positing” that! No one!

    Do you really not see how much of a straw man your argument is? This is not about history lessons, Don!

    “How do you know that ‘The crucifix was not an object in a history lesson’? I believe the court ruled that, indeed, it was.”

    Are you saying that an Italian teacher actually made reference to the crucifix as part of his daily lesson? Because the ruling makes clear that the reason the crucifix had been there was that several historical Italian governments (interestingly including the Fascists) had required all Italian classrooms to have crucifixes. And not as a teaching aid, but as a religious symbol.

    But hey, I’ll quote from the court’s own press release:

    There was no evidence before the Court that the display of such a symbol on classroom walls might have an influence on pupils. … The Italian Government submitted that the presence of crucifixes in State-school classrooms now corresponded to a tradition which they considered it important to perpetuate. … [The Court] observed that a crucifix on a wall was an essentially passive symbol whose influence on pupils was not comparable to that of didactic speech or participation in religious activities.

    “No evidence [of] influence.” “An essentially passive symbol.”

    Learn, children! Learn of your heritage! By gazing upon this passive symbol which was put here by tradition of the Italian government! We won’t actually make reference to it, but that’s your history lesson for today!

  • DonS

    tODD @ 15: So, I think our point of disagreement is that you disagree with the court that a student can potentially learn passively, by observation, while I agree that passive observation is a legitimate learning mode. At some point in time, at least some students may ask, if they don’t already know, as to the significance of the crucifix hanging on the wall.

    In any event, I certainly agree with the court that the crucifix hanging on the wall is a legitimate cultural relic of Italy which in no way discriminates against the religious freedom of non-Christian students.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 15: So, I think our point of disagreement is that you disagree with the court that a student can potentially learn passively, by observation, while I agree that passive observation is a legitimate learning mode. At some point in time, at least some students may ask, if they don’t already know, as to the significance of the crucifix hanging on the wall.

    In any event, I certainly agree with the court that the crucifix hanging on the wall is a legitimate cultural relic of Italy which in no way discriminates against the religious freedom of non-Christian students.

  • Louis

    Todd, quoting from the Yahoo News link:

    It said the court recognized that crucifixes weren’t a form of indoctrination but rather “an expression of the cultural and religious identity of traditionally Christian countries.”

    Spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said the court also recognized that each country should be granted “a margin of judgment concerning the value of religious symbols in its own cultural history and national identity, including where the symbols are displayed

    Whereas DonS sees them as educational tools, I think the word “symbols” is important – like Canadians having a maple leaf or Americans having 200 flags in the room ;)

    The crucifix as portrayed here is a historical symbol, not a religious symbol, as I read it.

  • Louis

    Todd, quoting from the Yahoo News link:

    It said the court recognized that crucifixes weren’t a form of indoctrination but rather “an expression of the cultural and religious identity of traditionally Christian countries.”

    Spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said the court also recognized that each country should be granted “a margin of judgment concerning the value of religious symbols in its own cultural history and national identity, including where the symbols are displayed

    Whereas DonS sees them as educational tools, I think the word “symbols” is important – like Canadians having a maple leaf or Americans having 200 flags in the room ;)

    The crucifix as portrayed here is a historical symbol, not a religious symbol, as I read it.

  • DonS

    Louis @ 17: I think we agree — the court’s ruling is that the crucifix is more than a religious symbol, it is also an important historical artifact of Italy’s culture, and has value regardless of the observer’s own religious beliefs. I emphasized the educational aspects of that because the setting is the public school. IF the crucifix is an important historical and cultural symbol in Italy, then students are certainly entitled to learn that fact.

    Nice crack about the U.S. flag, though a bit of an exaggeration, eh? ;-)

  • DonS

    Louis @ 17: I think we agree — the court’s ruling is that the crucifix is more than a religious symbol, it is also an important historical artifact of Italy’s culture, and has value regardless of the observer’s own religious beliefs. I emphasized the educational aspects of that because the setting is the public school. IF the crucifix is an important historical and cultural symbol in Italy, then students are certainly entitled to learn that fact.

    Nice crack about the U.S. flag, though a bit of an exaggeration, eh? ;-)

  • steve

    DonS #8, I think the schools, as do most local municipalities that face these same lawsuits, look at it more pragmatically. They foresaw a long, costly lawsuit, especially now in a time of cutbacks, and decided it wasn’t worth it. This, I believe, is pretty much the way it will play out across the country. Legal bullying, IMO.

  • steve

    DonS #8, I think the schools, as do most local municipalities that face these same lawsuits, look at it more pragmatically. They foresaw a long, costly lawsuit, especially now in a time of cutbacks, and decided it wasn’t worth it. This, I believe, is pretty much the way it will play out across the country. Legal bullying, IMO.

  • Louis

    DonS @ 18 – well, 198 then ;)

  • Louis

    DonS @ 18 – well, 198 then ;)

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@18), there is something I keep missing. “IF the crucifix is an important historical and cultural symbol in Italy, then students are certainly entitled to learn that fact.” You keep going there.

    Had the lower court opinion been upheld, in what way would students have been prevented from learning about their culture and history, including how religion informed it? That has been your repeated assertion.

    It is akin to reacting to a (hypothetical) decision upholding the placement of American flags in public classrooms by saying, “Well, good! Our students will not be prevented from learning history now!”

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@18), there is something I keep missing. “IF the crucifix is an important historical and cultural symbol in Italy, then students are certainly entitled to learn that fact.” You keep going there.

    Had the lower court opinion been upheld, in what way would students have been prevented from learning about their culture and history, including how religion informed it? That has been your repeated assertion.

    It is akin to reacting to a (hypothetical) decision upholding the placement of American flags in public classrooms by saying, “Well, good! Our students will not be prevented from learning history now!”

  • DonS

    tODD, let me ask YOU a question. Why is it any business of the courts to dictate to schools how they should teach? If the lower court opinion had been upheld, schools would have been prevented from teaching about the cultural and religious history of Italy using observational techniques. Did you ever notice that bulletin boards are an important teaching tool in classrooms? Why is that? Why not just rely on the teacher’s lecture, or workbook, or whiteboard? And why do the displays typically stay up for months at a time? Well, the reason is because some kids learn better by repetition and observation than they do in a one hour lecture. They learn on their timetable, not necessarily that imposed by a curriculum. The kid could be in the classroom for six months and never notice the crucifix and then, one day, it hits them. They see it and say “hey what’s that and what does it mean?”. There are different learning styles, and the classroom should, to the extent practicable, address them all, creating a learning environment.

  • DonS

    tODD, let me ask YOU a question. Why is it any business of the courts to dictate to schools how they should teach? If the lower court opinion had been upheld, schools would have been prevented from teaching about the cultural and religious history of Italy using observational techniques. Did you ever notice that bulletin boards are an important teaching tool in classrooms? Why is that? Why not just rely on the teacher’s lecture, or workbook, or whiteboard? And why do the displays typically stay up for months at a time? Well, the reason is because some kids learn better by repetition and observation than they do in a one hour lecture. They learn on their timetable, not necessarily that imposed by a curriculum. The kid could be in the classroom for six months and never notice the crucifix and then, one day, it hits them. They see it and say “hey what’s that and what does it mean?”. There are different learning styles, and the classroom should, to the extent practicable, address them all, creating a learning environment.

  • Porcell

    Steve, at 12, the classic symbolic image of Lady Justice in court-houses offend no one, since the ancient Greek religion is extinct. A crucifix in most American classrooms would be offensive to Jews and Muslims among others.

    One great thing about America is religious freedom. Crucifixes in American public-school classrooms would represent shallow form over substance.

    Christians would do well focus on serious orthodox church religion and desist from such foolishness as forcing shallow symbolic religion on the public schools.

  • Porcell

    Steve, at 12, the classic symbolic image of Lady Justice in court-houses offend no one, since the ancient Greek religion is extinct. A crucifix in most American classrooms would be offensive to Jews and Muslims among others.

    One great thing about America is religious freedom. Crucifixes in American public-school classrooms would represent shallow form over substance.

    Christians would do well focus on serious orthodox church religion and desist from such foolishness as forcing shallow symbolic religion on the public schools.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@22), I don’t mind answering your question, but it will seem a bit rude to me if you won’t, in turn, answer the question I asked you first.

    Which was: Had the lower court opinion been upheld, in what way would students have been prevented from learning about their culture and history, including how religion informed it?

    Anyhow, you asked, “Why is it any business of the courts to dictate to schools how they should teach?” And, of course, the technical answer to that would require me to know something about how the whole European system works. And I don’t. Perhaps you’re really familiar with it. But I can’t help but feel that you’re projecting onto the Italians in this case your feelings about the ACLU, etc.

    If the lower court opinion had been upheld, schools would have been prevented from teaching about the cultural and religious history of Italy using observational techniques. Did you ever notice that bulletin boards are an important teaching tool in classrooms? Why is that?

    And now I definitely think you’re making this into something it’s not about. You’re reading all sorts of intent into these crucifixes that, I assert, are nowhere to be found in the actual court discussion. Read them. Prove me wrong.

    In my reading, nobody ever held up these crucifixes as having pedagogical value, anymore than anyone makes sweeping claims about the pedagogical value of a flag in the classroom.

    Why were they there? Here I refer you to the actual text of the decision:

    The obligation to hang crucifixes in primary school classrooms was laid down in Article 140 of royal decree no. 4336 of 15 September 1860 of the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia, … which provided: “each school must without fail be equipped with … a crucifix”. …

    According to the applicants, the display of crucifixes in schools fell little by little into disuse [after the capture of Rome by the Italian army]. …

    During the fascist period the State took a series of measures aimed at ensuring compliance with the obligation to display the crucifix in classrooms. For instance, on 22 November 1922 the Ministry of Education sent out a circular (no. 68) with the following wording: “… in the last few years in many of the Kingdom’s primary schools the image of Christ and the portrait of the King have been removed. That is a manifest and intolerable breach of the regulations and especially an attack on the dominant religion of the State and the unity of the Nation. We therefore order all municipal administrative authorities in the Kingdom to restore, to those schools which lack them, the two sacred symbols of the faith and the consciousness of nationhood.”

    On 30 April 1924 royal decree no. 965 of 30 April 1924 was adopted. This decree laid down the internal regulations governing middle schools …. Article 118 provided: “Each school must have the national flag and each classroom must have a crucifix and a portrait of the King”.

    Article 119 of royal decree no. 1297 of 26 April 1928, approving the general regulations governing the provision of primary education …, provides that the crucifix must form part of the “necessary equipment and supplies in school classrooms”.

    And into all that, you’re reading about pedagogical styles and “legitimate learning modes”. Come on, Don.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@22), I don’t mind answering your question, but it will seem a bit rude to me if you won’t, in turn, answer the question I asked you first.

    Which was: Had the lower court opinion been upheld, in what way would students have been prevented from learning about their culture and history, including how religion informed it?

    Anyhow, you asked, “Why is it any business of the courts to dictate to schools how they should teach?” And, of course, the technical answer to that would require me to know something about how the whole European system works. And I don’t. Perhaps you’re really familiar with it. But I can’t help but feel that you’re projecting onto the Italians in this case your feelings about the ACLU, etc.

    If the lower court opinion had been upheld, schools would have been prevented from teaching about the cultural and religious history of Italy using observational techniques. Did you ever notice that bulletin boards are an important teaching tool in classrooms? Why is that?

    And now I definitely think you’re making this into something it’s not about. You’re reading all sorts of intent into these crucifixes that, I assert, are nowhere to be found in the actual court discussion. Read them. Prove me wrong.

    In my reading, nobody ever held up these crucifixes as having pedagogical value, anymore than anyone makes sweeping claims about the pedagogical value of a flag in the classroom.

    Why were they there? Here I refer you to the actual text of the decision:

    The obligation to hang crucifixes in primary school classrooms was laid down in Article 140 of royal decree no. 4336 of 15 September 1860 of the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia, … which provided: “each school must without fail be equipped with … a crucifix”. …

    According to the applicants, the display of crucifixes in schools fell little by little into disuse [after the capture of Rome by the Italian army]. …

    During the fascist period the State took a series of measures aimed at ensuring compliance with the obligation to display the crucifix in classrooms. For instance, on 22 November 1922 the Ministry of Education sent out a circular (no. 68) with the following wording: “… in the last few years in many of the Kingdom’s primary schools the image of Christ and the portrait of the King have been removed. That is a manifest and intolerable breach of the regulations and especially an attack on the dominant religion of the State and the unity of the Nation. We therefore order all municipal administrative authorities in the Kingdom to restore, to those schools which lack them, the two sacred symbols of the faith and the consciousness of nationhood.”

    On 30 April 1924 royal decree no. 965 of 30 April 1924 was adopted. This decree laid down the internal regulations governing middle schools …. Article 118 provided: “Each school must have the national flag and each classroom must have a crucifix and a portrait of the King”.

    Article 119 of royal decree no. 1297 of 26 April 1928, approving the general regulations governing the provision of primary education …, provides that the crucifix must form part of the “necessary equipment and supplies in school classrooms”.

    And into all that, you’re reading about pedagogical styles and “legitimate learning modes”. Come on, Don.

  • DonS

    tODD, thanks for the link to the actual decision in English. While the history establishing the installation of crucifixes in classrooms is interesting, it is clear that the actual holding is based on the Court’s deference to the state in establishing school curriculum:

    69. The fact remains that the Contracting States enjoy a margin of appreciation in their efforts to reconcile exercise of the functions they assume in relation to education and teaching with respect for the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions (see paragraphs 61-62 above).
    That applies to organisation of the school environment and to the setting and planning of the curriculum (as the Court has already pointed out: see essentially the judgments cited above in the cases of Kjeldsen, Busk Madsen and Pedersen, §§ 50-53; Folgerø, § 84; and Zengin, §§ 51-52; paragraph 62 above). The Court therefore has a duty in principle to respect the Contracting States’ decisions in these matters, including the place they accord to religion, provided that those decisions do not lead to a form of indoctrination (ibid.).
    70. The Court concludes in the present case that the decision whether crucifixes should be present in State-school classrooms is, in principle, a matter falling within the margin of appreciation of the respondent State. Moreover, the fact that there is no European consensus on the question of the presence of religious symbols in State schools (see paragraphs 26-28 above) speaks in favour of that approach.
    This margin of appreciation, however, goes hand in hand with European supervision (see, for example, mutatis mutandis, Leyla Şahin, cited above, § 110), the Court’s task in the present case being to determine whether the limit mentioned in paragraph 69 above has been exceeded.
    71. In that connection, it is true that by prescribing the presence of crucifixes in State-school classrooms – a sign which, whether or not it is accorded in addition a secular symbolic value, undoubtedly refers to Christianity – the regulations confer on the country’s majority religion preponderant visibility in the school environment.
    That is not in itself sufficient, however, to denote a process of indoctrination on the respondent State’s part and establish a breach of the requirements of Article 2 of Protocol No. 1.
    The Court refers on this point, mutatis mutandis, to the previously cited Folgerø and Zengin judgments. In the Folgerø case, in which it was called upon to examine the content of “Christianity, religion and philosophy” (KRL) lessons, it found that the fact that the syllabus gave a larger share to knowledge of the Christian religion than to that of other religions and philosophies could not in itself be viewed as a departure from the principles of pluralism and objectivity amounting to indoctrination. It explained that in view of the place occupied by Christianity in the history and tradition of the respondent State – Norway – this question had to be regarded as falling within the margin of appreciation left to it in planning and setting the curriculum (see Folgerø, cited above, § 89). It reached a similar conclusion in the context of “religious culture and ethics” classes in Turkish schools, where the syllabus gave greater prominence to knowledge of Islam on the ground that, notwithstanding the State’s secular nature, Islam was the majority religion practised in Turkey (see Zengin, cited above, § 63).

    In fact, tODD, I would argue that the history which put crucifixes in the classroom is part of the very culture which Italy now seeks to preserve for future generations. Why is it that in this era of multiculturalism, the only culture which is deemed unworthy of preservation is that of Christian western Europe?

  • DonS

    tODD, thanks for the link to the actual decision in English. While the history establishing the installation of crucifixes in classrooms is interesting, it is clear that the actual holding is based on the Court’s deference to the state in establishing school curriculum:

    69. The fact remains that the Contracting States enjoy a margin of appreciation in their efforts to reconcile exercise of the functions they assume in relation to education and teaching with respect for the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions (see paragraphs 61-62 above).
    That applies to organisation of the school environment and to the setting and planning of the curriculum (as the Court has already pointed out: see essentially the judgments cited above in the cases of Kjeldsen, Busk Madsen and Pedersen, §§ 50-53; Folgerø, § 84; and Zengin, §§ 51-52; paragraph 62 above). The Court therefore has a duty in principle to respect the Contracting States’ decisions in these matters, including the place they accord to religion, provided that those decisions do not lead to a form of indoctrination (ibid.).
    70. The Court concludes in the present case that the decision whether crucifixes should be present in State-school classrooms is, in principle, a matter falling within the margin of appreciation of the respondent State. Moreover, the fact that there is no European consensus on the question of the presence of religious symbols in State schools (see paragraphs 26-28 above) speaks in favour of that approach.
    This margin of appreciation, however, goes hand in hand with European supervision (see, for example, mutatis mutandis, Leyla Şahin, cited above, § 110), the Court’s task in the present case being to determine whether the limit mentioned in paragraph 69 above has been exceeded.
    71. In that connection, it is true that by prescribing the presence of crucifixes in State-school classrooms – a sign which, whether or not it is accorded in addition a secular symbolic value, undoubtedly refers to Christianity – the regulations confer on the country’s majority religion preponderant visibility in the school environment.
    That is not in itself sufficient, however, to denote a process of indoctrination on the respondent State’s part and establish a breach of the requirements of Article 2 of Protocol No. 1.
    The Court refers on this point, mutatis mutandis, to the previously cited Folgerø and Zengin judgments. In the Folgerø case, in which it was called upon to examine the content of “Christianity, religion and philosophy” (KRL) lessons, it found that the fact that the syllabus gave a larger share to knowledge of the Christian religion than to that of other religions and philosophies could not in itself be viewed as a departure from the principles of pluralism and objectivity amounting to indoctrination. It explained that in view of the place occupied by Christianity in the history and tradition of the respondent State – Norway – this question had to be regarded as falling within the margin of appreciation left to it in planning and setting the curriculum (see Folgerø, cited above, § 89). It reached a similar conclusion in the context of “religious culture and ethics” classes in Turkish schools, where the syllabus gave greater prominence to knowledge of Islam on the ground that, notwithstanding the State’s secular nature, Islam was the majority religion practised in Turkey (see Zengin, cited above, § 63).

    In fact, tODD, I would argue that the history which put crucifixes in the classroom is part of the very culture which Italy now seeks to preserve for future generations. Why is it that in this era of multiculturalism, the only culture which is deemed unworthy of preservation is that of Christian western Europe?

  • steve

    Porcell #23,

    It’s called Hellenic Polytheistic Reconstructionism, and it’s currently being revived. Does that make a difference?

    Anyway, I wasn’t really talking about having a crucifix in an American classroom. Though I wouldn’t personally have a problem with it, as a member of a Protestant denomination that doesn’t use the symbol. I was just making the point that, to be consistent, addressing the pagan symbolism (many of them Masonic) all over our countries public areas would seem to be appropriate. Otherwise, I think the truth of what the objectionists are doing is blatantly obvious.

  • steve

    Porcell #23,

    It’s called Hellenic Polytheistic Reconstructionism, and it’s currently being revived. Does that make a difference?

    Anyway, I wasn’t really talking about having a crucifix in an American classroom. Though I wouldn’t personally have a problem with it, as a member of a Protestant denomination that doesn’t use the symbol. I was just making the point that, to be consistent, addressing the pagan symbolism (many of them Masonic) all over our countries public areas would seem to be appropriate. Otherwise, I think the truth of what the objectionists are doing is blatantly obvious.

  • steve

    *country’s* Man, I shouldn’t write late at night.

  • steve

    *country’s* Man, I shouldn’t write late at night.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Don (@25), how many times will I have to ask you my question before you answer it?

    I also can’t help but notice that your latest reply (@25) dropped the whole cross-as-pedagogical-aid line of arguing. Just as well.

    I mean, do you just want me to conclude that this is nothing more than you projecting your US Culture War feelings on to whatever stories from around the globe you come across? Because that’s all you’re making it out to be. And your refusal to answer a very basic, repeated question about your own repeated assertions just makes you look evasive.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Don (@25), how many times will I have to ask you my question before you answer it?

    I also can’t help but notice that your latest reply (@25) dropped the whole cross-as-pedagogical-aid line of arguing. Just as well.

    I mean, do you just want me to conclude that this is nothing more than you projecting your US Culture War feelings on to whatever stories from around the globe you come across? Because that’s all you’re making it out to be. And your refusal to answer a very basic, repeated question about your own repeated assertions just makes you look evasive.

  • DonS

    tODD, I guess I don’t know what question I’m supposedly not answering. I THOUGHT the question was whether, by eliminating crucifixes from classrooms the courts would have foreclosed the teaching of Christian history to students. I responded by saying that that is not the point. Different students have different learning styles, so if you foreclose certain methods for teaching students about their country’s cultural and religious heritage you are reducing educational effectiveness. Does that not answer the question? You may disagree, but I think it clearly answers the question.

    I haven’t dropped any arguments. Maybe you misunderstand my arguments. I don’t believe it is the province of the courts to interfere with the educational process barring a compelling case that the government (public school) is infringing on the rights of students in those schools and the rights of parents to direct the education of their children. Having a crucifix on the wall IN ITALY! does not, in any reasonable person’s mind, rise to that level of infringement unless the school is also actively making students genuflect or otherwise pay obeisance to it, practice the Catholic faith, etc. in contravention of their own religious faith or practice. We should be encouraging schools to make their students aware of their national heritage, EVEN IF it is white and European.

    On the other hand, in the U.S., such a permanent display, by itself, in a public school classroom would probably be inappropriate, since the U.S. doesn’t have the same kind of Catholic heritage.

  • DonS

    tODD, I guess I don’t know what question I’m supposedly not answering. I THOUGHT the question was whether, by eliminating crucifixes from classrooms the courts would have foreclosed the teaching of Christian history to students. I responded by saying that that is not the point. Different students have different learning styles, so if you foreclose certain methods for teaching students about their country’s cultural and religious heritage you are reducing educational effectiveness. Does that not answer the question? You may disagree, but I think it clearly answers the question.

    I haven’t dropped any arguments. Maybe you misunderstand my arguments. I don’t believe it is the province of the courts to interfere with the educational process barring a compelling case that the government (public school) is infringing on the rights of students in those schools and the rights of parents to direct the education of their children. Having a crucifix on the wall IN ITALY! does not, in any reasonable person’s mind, rise to that level of infringement unless the school is also actively making students genuflect or otherwise pay obeisance to it, practice the Catholic faith, etc. in contravention of their own religious faith or practice. We should be encouraging schools to make their students aware of their national heritage, EVEN IF it is white and European.

    On the other hand, in the U.S., such a permanent display, by itself, in a public school classroom would probably be inappropriate, since the U.S. doesn’t have the same kind of Catholic heritage.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@29) said:

    I THOUGHT the question was whether, by eliminating crucifixes from classrooms the courts would have foreclosed the teaching of Christian history to students. I responded by saying that that is not the point.

    Well, Don, you certainly made it your point, repeatedly, by tying the mere physical presence or not of a crucifix to your statement that (@8), e.g. “it’s insane that anyone would even posit that kids in public schools cannot learn portions of history that touch on historical religious faith.”

    And I still cannot believe you’re going with this argument:

    Different students have different learning styles, so if you foreclose certain methods for teaching students about their country’s cultural and religious heritage you are reducing educational effectiveness.

    Just to humor you, what educational opportunities would be lost by the removing a cross?

    And if doing so has such a non-negligible impact on “educational effectiveness” with respect to teaching the students about their “cultural and religious heritage”, then doesn’t that suggest some serious issues? I mean, if my understanding of Texas history were seriously impacted by the presence or absence of a print of Sam Houston, then I would argue that “educational effectiveness” is already at a nadir.

    I mean, you’re still trying to argue for the crucifix as a pedagogical aid when there is no evidence whatsoever that anyone in the case was arguing for that. This is your argument solely! For everyone else, it’s about tradition or government fiat, but for you it is mainly a cultural learning opportunity. But your opinions on how it might be useful aren’t really informative here, are they? Show me where the people in Italy used it like you keep asserting they might.

    I seriously doubt you’d be making any of these arguments if we were talking about classrooms in Germany with swastikas on the wall, even if the teacher said, “Oh, it’s just a learning opportunity. I just want the kids to be reminded of their historical and national heritage. I hope it may prompt some of them to ask me about National Socialism someday, though so far, it’s just hung there. I’m certainly not advocating anything by hanging it there. Just a decoration.”

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@29) said:

    I THOUGHT the question was whether, by eliminating crucifixes from classrooms the courts would have foreclosed the teaching of Christian history to students. I responded by saying that that is not the point.

    Well, Don, you certainly made it your point, repeatedly, by tying the mere physical presence or not of a crucifix to your statement that (@8), e.g. “it’s insane that anyone would even posit that kids in public schools cannot learn portions of history that touch on historical religious faith.”

    And I still cannot believe you’re going with this argument:

    Different students have different learning styles, so if you foreclose certain methods for teaching students about their country’s cultural and religious heritage you are reducing educational effectiveness.

    Just to humor you, what educational opportunities would be lost by the removing a cross?

    And if doing so has such a non-negligible impact on “educational effectiveness” with respect to teaching the students about their “cultural and religious heritage”, then doesn’t that suggest some serious issues? I mean, if my understanding of Texas history were seriously impacted by the presence or absence of a print of Sam Houston, then I would argue that “educational effectiveness” is already at a nadir.

    I mean, you’re still trying to argue for the crucifix as a pedagogical aid when there is no evidence whatsoever that anyone in the case was arguing for that. This is your argument solely! For everyone else, it’s about tradition or government fiat, but for you it is mainly a cultural learning opportunity. But your opinions on how it might be useful aren’t really informative here, are they? Show me where the people in Italy used it like you keep asserting they might.

    I seriously doubt you’d be making any of these arguments if we were talking about classrooms in Germany with swastikas on the wall, even if the teacher said, “Oh, it’s just a learning opportunity. I just want the kids to be reminded of their historical and national heritage. I hope it may prompt some of them to ask me about National Socialism someday, though so far, it’s just hung there. I’m certainly not advocating anything by hanging it there. Just a decoration.”

  • DonS

    tODD @ 30: So, are you equating swastikas with the crucifix? You’re darned right I would not make the same arguments, because permanently displaying the swastika on classroom walls would, as I stated @ 29, constitute “a compelling case that the government (public school) is infringing on the rights of students in those schools and the rights of parents to direct the education of their children”. Such a permanent display would be offensive particularly to Jewish students and others whose immediate past families were murdered by the Nazi government and because the Nazi government was an aberration, rather than the basis for German culture. It certainly does not represent the historical and national heritage of Germany.

    I cited to you the evidence of the educational (or “pedagogical”, as you seem to prefer) purposes for the crucifix in the classroom, in the portion of the court’s decision I copied @ post 25. Read it again — apparently you missed the point the court was making, which is that the state has latitude in determining the curriculum and teaching methods it employs in educating students, including, apparently, displaying the crucifix in the classroom as a means of impressing students with their Christian heritage.

    I am supposing that you do not have a degree in childrens’ education, and thus would not hold yourself out as an expert in that field. Nor do I, though I suspect that, because of my greater experience as a parent, having raised three kids to adulthood so far, and as a homeschooler since 1992, I do know a thing or two about teaching children. Enough to know that kids learn in a myriad of ways, each one a bit differently. There is absolutely no question in my mind that a kid raised through the public schools, having observed the crucifix on the classroom wall over the years will have a greater appreciation of the Christian heritage of his country than the kid who has not been raised that way. Children learn observationally. I have seen it MANY TIMES. Young children, in particular, learn this way — they will observe and imitate the most mundane behaviors, that seem so insignificant to you, sometimes to the parent’s embarrassment. I suspect that you have seen that in your own family.

    Now, let me drive the point home. You seem incredulous that I could think there is any educational value whatsoever in simply displaying something on the wall of a classroom. Yet, this case was brought on the notion that the very same display that you think is so non-educational would oppress students not of the Christian faith. That’s pretty inconsistent, isn’t it? I mean, if that simple display has the power to oppress, isn’t it logical that it also has the power to educate? Or, at least, to increase awareness?

    And, if it truly is a negligible influence, as is apparently your view, then what is the harm in leaving it in place, as it has been for many years?

  • DonS

    tODD @ 30: So, are you equating swastikas with the crucifix? You’re darned right I would not make the same arguments, because permanently displaying the swastika on classroom walls would, as I stated @ 29, constitute “a compelling case that the government (public school) is infringing on the rights of students in those schools and the rights of parents to direct the education of their children”. Such a permanent display would be offensive particularly to Jewish students and others whose immediate past families were murdered by the Nazi government and because the Nazi government was an aberration, rather than the basis for German culture. It certainly does not represent the historical and national heritage of Germany.

    I cited to you the evidence of the educational (or “pedagogical”, as you seem to prefer) purposes for the crucifix in the classroom, in the portion of the court’s decision I copied @ post 25. Read it again — apparently you missed the point the court was making, which is that the state has latitude in determining the curriculum and teaching methods it employs in educating students, including, apparently, displaying the crucifix in the classroom as a means of impressing students with their Christian heritage.

    I am supposing that you do not have a degree in childrens’ education, and thus would not hold yourself out as an expert in that field. Nor do I, though I suspect that, because of my greater experience as a parent, having raised three kids to adulthood so far, and as a homeschooler since 1992, I do know a thing or two about teaching children. Enough to know that kids learn in a myriad of ways, each one a bit differently. There is absolutely no question in my mind that a kid raised through the public schools, having observed the crucifix on the classroom wall over the years will have a greater appreciation of the Christian heritage of his country than the kid who has not been raised that way. Children learn observationally. I have seen it MANY TIMES. Young children, in particular, learn this way — they will observe and imitate the most mundane behaviors, that seem so insignificant to you, sometimes to the parent’s embarrassment. I suspect that you have seen that in your own family.

    Now, let me drive the point home. You seem incredulous that I could think there is any educational value whatsoever in simply displaying something on the wall of a classroom. Yet, this case was brought on the notion that the very same display that you think is so non-educational would oppress students not of the Christian faith. That’s pretty inconsistent, isn’t it? I mean, if that simple display has the power to oppress, isn’t it logical that it also has the power to educate? Or, at least, to increase awareness?

    And, if it truly is a negligible influence, as is apparently your view, then what is the harm in leaving it in place, as it has been for many years?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@31) asked, “are you equating swastikas with the crucifix?” No, but once the crucifix has been largely stripped of its meaning and turned into a mere passive history lesson, I really don’t see why swastikas couldn’t also be used similarly. But, as I figured, you disagree. And I think this exposes some inconsistencies in your arguments. Let’s look.

    You said that “permanently displaying the swastika on classroom walls would … be offensive particularly to Jewish students.” Which is of course the argument used by the woman who filed suit in the crucifix case. You didn’t seem terribly concerned with any offense that the cross might have caused her. So that seems inconsistent.

    “The Nazi government was an aberration, rather than the basis for German culture.” An argument that rests, of course, on you (a non-German) being the correct arbiter on what is and isn’t German culture, and of which historical facts are “aberrations” and which are not. One could ask if, given the present state of religion in Europe, Christianity itself were not an aberration there, in the course of fading away.

    But I think more to the point, this notion of “aberrations” is irrelevant. National Socialism has played a major role in Germany’s history and its culture (even if its modern culture is largely a reaction against it, the statement still holds).

    You were going all on and on about effective education, teaching kids about their history and culture, even by using passive elements such as symbols hanging on walls … until I applied it to something you didn’t like and didn’t want the kids to have staring them in the face. And just like that, your arguments changed. “Offensive!” (Come on, Don, even Scripture tells us the cross is offensive to unbelievers; you just don’t seem to care if your preferred symbol offends them.)

    But if you change your argument when you don’t like the outcome, guess what? You don’t really believe in your argument.

    “The point the court was making, which is that the state has latitude in determining the curriculum and teaching methods it employs in educating students.” Sure … unless, of course, the state wants to teach its students passively about National Socialism by hanging a swastika on the wall. And then what happens to your arguments about states’ rights?

    Do you want me to ask my high-school-teaching wife, Don? Should I ask her if she just hangs random, unexplained chemistry symbols around her room, hoping that kids might ask her about them, and thus begin an enlightening conversation?

    “If that simple display has the power to oppress, isn’t it logical that it also has the power to educate?” Logical? Logical? Are you serious? So maybe just a big poster with the F-word should be in every classroom? Super offensive … and therefore super educational! Or how about a poster saying “Christians are stupid and should be shot”? Certainly has oppressive power, so, by your “logic”, it also has incredible educational potential! Let’s put them up everywhere! Think of all the awareness we’d increase, Don!

    Seriously, all you’ve done is convince me that you really want to defend the hanging up of crucifixes. No other symbols get the benefit of your logic. Just the ones you like, it would seem.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS (@31) asked, “are you equating swastikas with the crucifix?” No, but once the crucifix has been largely stripped of its meaning and turned into a mere passive history lesson, I really don’t see why swastikas couldn’t also be used similarly. But, as I figured, you disagree. And I think this exposes some inconsistencies in your arguments. Let’s look.

    You said that “permanently displaying the swastika on classroom walls would … be offensive particularly to Jewish students.” Which is of course the argument used by the woman who filed suit in the crucifix case. You didn’t seem terribly concerned with any offense that the cross might have caused her. So that seems inconsistent.

    “The Nazi government was an aberration, rather than the basis for German culture.” An argument that rests, of course, on you (a non-German) being the correct arbiter on what is and isn’t German culture, and of which historical facts are “aberrations” and which are not. One could ask if, given the present state of religion in Europe, Christianity itself were not an aberration there, in the course of fading away.

    But I think more to the point, this notion of “aberrations” is irrelevant. National Socialism has played a major role in Germany’s history and its culture (even if its modern culture is largely a reaction against it, the statement still holds).

    You were going all on and on about effective education, teaching kids about their history and culture, even by using passive elements such as symbols hanging on walls … until I applied it to something you didn’t like and didn’t want the kids to have staring them in the face. And just like that, your arguments changed. “Offensive!” (Come on, Don, even Scripture tells us the cross is offensive to unbelievers; you just don’t seem to care if your preferred symbol offends them.)

    But if you change your argument when you don’t like the outcome, guess what? You don’t really believe in your argument.

    “The point the court was making, which is that the state has latitude in determining the curriculum and teaching methods it employs in educating students.” Sure … unless, of course, the state wants to teach its students passively about National Socialism by hanging a swastika on the wall. And then what happens to your arguments about states’ rights?

    Do you want me to ask my high-school-teaching wife, Don? Should I ask her if she just hangs random, unexplained chemistry symbols around her room, hoping that kids might ask her about them, and thus begin an enlightening conversation?

    “If that simple display has the power to oppress, isn’t it logical that it also has the power to educate?” Logical? Logical? Are you serious? So maybe just a big poster with the F-word should be in every classroom? Super offensive … and therefore super educational! Or how about a poster saying “Christians are stupid and should be shot”? Certainly has oppressive power, so, by your “logic”, it also has incredible educational potential! Let’s put them up everywhere! Think of all the awareness we’d increase, Don!

    Seriously, all you’ve done is convince me that you really want to defend the hanging up of crucifixes. No other symbols get the benefit of your logic. Just the ones you like, it would seem.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    And, if I haven’t made myself clear enough, what I find so problematic (and, frankly, naive) about highly-partial arguments in defense of highly particular outcomes, justified with whatever general arguments may seem to apply to your desired end, is that when people who you don’t agree with come into power, they can and will use those exact same arguments to justify doing things like, oh, say, allowing swastikas in every classroom.

    Except you don’t like swastikas, you just like crucifixes. So you use an entirely different set of arguments, depending on which case we’re talking about.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    And, if I haven’t made myself clear enough, what I find so problematic (and, frankly, naive) about highly-partial arguments in defense of highly particular outcomes, justified with whatever general arguments may seem to apply to your desired end, is that when people who you don’t agree with come into power, they can and will use those exact same arguments to justify doing things like, oh, say, allowing swastikas in every classroom.

    Except you don’t like swastikas, you just like crucifixes. So you use an entirely different set of arguments, depending on which case we’re talking about.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 32 & 33: Talk about setting up straw men! And, conveniently ignoring the thrust of my argument.

    Your swastika argument is ridiculous. And, I’m sure, offensive to just about everyone, in that you appear to be equating the crucifix with the swastika. Let me amplify my previous argument regarding displaying the swastika in German classrooms by pointing out that the German Constitution, as of 1949, prohibits the display of the swastika, in all but a few contexts. I don’t believe the permanent display of a swastika in all German classrooms would fall within the constitutional exceptions. So, the hypothetical doesn’t work, on its face. And, rightly so.

    You said that “permanently displaying the swastika on classroom walls would … be offensive particularly to Jewish students.” Which is of course the argument used by the woman who filed suit in the crucifix case. You didn’t seem terribly concerned with any offense that the cross might have caused her. So that seems inconsistent.

    Well, you butchered my quote, changing its meaning pretty dramatically. To clarify, what I said was: “Such a permanent display would be offensive particularly to Jewish students and others whose immediate past families were murdered by the Nazi government …”. Are you seriously equating the offense to students whose families were murdered by Nazis just a couple of generations ago with some perceived religious offense suffered by a non-Christian student having to look at a crucifix in a country which is the home of Catholicism? Is that the same thing to you? All “offenses” are equal, and to be taken equally seriously? Then I think that is where we differ. To be clear, I didn’t “change my argument” because I didn’t like the symbol you proposed. Rather, I consistently applied the exception I had pre-defined in my argument.

    You see, the other thing you ignored in my post was this: “because permanently displaying the swastika on classroom walls would, as I stated @ 29, constitute “a compelling case that the government (public school) is infringing on the rights of students in those schools and the rights of parents to direct the education of their children”. This caveat is essentially the same one that governs our exercise of rights in this country — i.e. that the exercise of our rights is limited to the extent that it imposes an undue burden on the rights of another. In order to run an effective society, we as people need to possess sufficient common sense, and a sense of proportion, to be able to determine when the burden become undue, or oppressive. In equating the harm imposed on a person of a minority faith, in merely having to be in the room where a crucifix is displayed, with that of a person having to look on the symbol of a government that brutally murdered members of that person’s family, is not proportional. It is, frankly, unreasonable.

    The other thing that is unreasonable, in your analysis, is equating the 12 year Third Reich, which almost destroyed the German nation and obliterated much of its true German cultural heritage, with the nearly 2,000 year history of Catholicism in Italy, and the fact that it literally defines Italian culture. This statement: “One could ask if, given the present state of religion in Europe, Christianity itself were not an aberration there, in the course of fading away” actually evidences the need for more cultural education of current Italian students, as the Italian people should have a compelling interest in ensuring that Italy’s cultural history is NOT lost to future generations, because of neglect in teaching it. Not to mention the silliness of describing 2,000 years of history as an “aberration”, apparently equal, in your mind, to the 12 years of the Third Reich.

    This paragraph embodies the real flaw in your position:

    “The point the court was making, which is that the state has latitude in determining the curriculum and teaching methods it employs in educating students.” Sure … unless, of course, the state wants to teach its students passively about National Socialism by hanging a swastika on the wall. And then what happens to your arguments about states’ rights?

    Specifically, you ignored the word “latitude”. “Latitude” doesn’t mean “unlimited”. Again, you can be consistent by consistently applying exceptions to a general policy of latitude. In my opinion, and apparently that of the court, a crucifix falls within the latitude granted to the state. In my further opinion, the permanent display of a swastika would not.

    Now, that does not mean that I would argue it would never be appropriate to display a swastika in a German classroom. To the contrary, it is certainly the case that German students need to understand why and how their forebears fell into the disastrous evil that was the Third Reich. But, it needs to be done in context, recognizing that the interest of the state, unlike the case for Italy and Catholicism, is NOT to instill a cultural interest in Naziism on its young citizens.

    Do you want me to ask my high-school-teaching wife, Don? Should I ask her if she just hangs random, unexplained chemistry symbols around her room, hoping that kids might ask her about them, and thus begin an enlightening conversation?

    Well, I’m not sure a crucifix is “random”, or that it can be equated to a “chemistry symbol”. But, if she is a chemistry teacher, she likely has a periodic table hanging in her classroom.

    “If that simple display has the power to oppress, isn’t it logical that it also has the power to educate?” Logical? Logical? Are you serious? So maybe just a big poster with the F-word should be in every classroom? Super offensive … and therefore super educational! Or how about a poster saying “Christians are stupid and should be shot”? Certainly has oppressive power, so, by your “logic”, it also has incredible educational potential! Let’s put them up everywhere! Think of all the awareness we’d increase, Don!

    Quite frankly, I’m confused by this paragraph. Maybe I misunderstood your previous argument. You argued, I thought, at least by implication @ post 30, that the presence of a crucifix would have a negligible educational impact on students. My response was that, if its educational impact was negligible, because its just part of the “furniture” of the room, then its offensive impact is also negligible. Now, you’re equating a crucifix with the “F-word”. Well, let me just say that if you have ever traveled through Italy, and you think the crucifix is like the “F-word”, then you are going to be very offended. I’m going to stand by my argument, however. If the crucifix is sufficiently noticeable to offend, then it will certainly give rise to educational moments. It’s one or the other. Either it is ignored, and thus negligible, in which case there is no harm in it remaining, or it is noticed, potentially offending a few, but definitely educating students as to their cultural and religious heritage. The “offense”, to the extent it occurs, in my opinion and that of the court, falls within the latitude granted to the state.

    “No other symbols get the benefit of your logic. Just the ones you like, it would seem.” — On what do you base this statement, exactly? We have discussed exactly two symbols — crucifixes and swastikas. So, because I believe the extremely offensive nature of swastikas in Germany fall beyond the latitude reasonably granted to the state, that means I would allow NO other symbols?

    Your logic escapes me.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 32 & 33: Talk about setting up straw men! And, conveniently ignoring the thrust of my argument.

    Your swastika argument is ridiculous. And, I’m sure, offensive to just about everyone, in that you appear to be equating the crucifix with the swastika. Let me amplify my previous argument regarding displaying the swastika in German classrooms by pointing out that the German Constitution, as of 1949, prohibits the display of the swastika, in all but a few contexts. I don’t believe the permanent display of a swastika in all German classrooms would fall within the constitutional exceptions. So, the hypothetical doesn’t work, on its face. And, rightly so.

    You said that “permanently displaying the swastika on classroom walls would … be offensive particularly to Jewish students.” Which is of course the argument used by the woman who filed suit in the crucifix case. You didn’t seem terribly concerned with any offense that the cross might have caused her. So that seems inconsistent.

    Well, you butchered my quote, changing its meaning pretty dramatically. To clarify, what I said was: “Such a permanent display would be offensive particularly to Jewish students and others whose immediate past families were murdered by the Nazi government …”. Are you seriously equating the offense to students whose families were murdered by Nazis just a couple of generations ago with some perceived religious offense suffered by a non-Christian student having to look at a crucifix in a country which is the home of Catholicism? Is that the same thing to you? All “offenses” are equal, and to be taken equally seriously? Then I think that is where we differ. To be clear, I didn’t “change my argument” because I didn’t like the symbol you proposed. Rather, I consistently applied the exception I had pre-defined in my argument.

    You see, the other thing you ignored in my post was this: “because permanently displaying the swastika on classroom walls would, as I stated @ 29, constitute “a compelling case that the government (public school) is infringing on the rights of students in those schools and the rights of parents to direct the education of their children”. This caveat is essentially the same one that governs our exercise of rights in this country — i.e. that the exercise of our rights is limited to the extent that it imposes an undue burden on the rights of another. In order to run an effective society, we as people need to possess sufficient common sense, and a sense of proportion, to be able to determine when the burden become undue, or oppressive. In equating the harm imposed on a person of a minority faith, in merely having to be in the room where a crucifix is displayed, with that of a person having to look on the symbol of a government that brutally murdered members of that person’s family, is not proportional. It is, frankly, unreasonable.

    The other thing that is unreasonable, in your analysis, is equating the 12 year Third Reich, which almost destroyed the German nation and obliterated much of its true German cultural heritage, with the nearly 2,000 year history of Catholicism in Italy, and the fact that it literally defines Italian culture. This statement: “One could ask if, given the present state of religion in Europe, Christianity itself were not an aberration there, in the course of fading away” actually evidences the need for more cultural education of current Italian students, as the Italian people should have a compelling interest in ensuring that Italy’s cultural history is NOT lost to future generations, because of neglect in teaching it. Not to mention the silliness of describing 2,000 years of history as an “aberration”, apparently equal, in your mind, to the 12 years of the Third Reich.

    This paragraph embodies the real flaw in your position:

    “The point the court was making, which is that the state has latitude in determining the curriculum and teaching methods it employs in educating students.” Sure … unless, of course, the state wants to teach its students passively about National Socialism by hanging a swastika on the wall. And then what happens to your arguments about states’ rights?

    Specifically, you ignored the word “latitude”. “Latitude” doesn’t mean “unlimited”. Again, you can be consistent by consistently applying exceptions to a general policy of latitude. In my opinion, and apparently that of the court, a crucifix falls within the latitude granted to the state. In my further opinion, the permanent display of a swastika would not.

    Now, that does not mean that I would argue it would never be appropriate to display a swastika in a German classroom. To the contrary, it is certainly the case that German students need to understand why and how their forebears fell into the disastrous evil that was the Third Reich. But, it needs to be done in context, recognizing that the interest of the state, unlike the case for Italy and Catholicism, is NOT to instill a cultural interest in Naziism on its young citizens.

    Do you want me to ask my high-school-teaching wife, Don? Should I ask her if she just hangs random, unexplained chemistry symbols around her room, hoping that kids might ask her about them, and thus begin an enlightening conversation?

    Well, I’m not sure a crucifix is “random”, or that it can be equated to a “chemistry symbol”. But, if she is a chemistry teacher, she likely has a periodic table hanging in her classroom.

    “If that simple display has the power to oppress, isn’t it logical that it also has the power to educate?” Logical? Logical? Are you serious? So maybe just a big poster with the F-word should be in every classroom? Super offensive … and therefore super educational! Or how about a poster saying “Christians are stupid and should be shot”? Certainly has oppressive power, so, by your “logic”, it also has incredible educational potential! Let’s put them up everywhere! Think of all the awareness we’d increase, Don!

    Quite frankly, I’m confused by this paragraph. Maybe I misunderstood your previous argument. You argued, I thought, at least by implication @ post 30, that the presence of a crucifix would have a negligible educational impact on students. My response was that, if its educational impact was negligible, because its just part of the “furniture” of the room, then its offensive impact is also negligible. Now, you’re equating a crucifix with the “F-word”. Well, let me just say that if you have ever traveled through Italy, and you think the crucifix is like the “F-word”, then you are going to be very offended. I’m going to stand by my argument, however. If the crucifix is sufficiently noticeable to offend, then it will certainly give rise to educational moments. It’s one or the other. Either it is ignored, and thus negligible, in which case there is no harm in it remaining, or it is noticed, potentially offending a few, but definitely educating students as to their cultural and religious heritage. The “offense”, to the extent it occurs, in my opinion and that of the court, falls within the latitude granted to the state.

    “No other symbols get the benefit of your logic. Just the ones you like, it would seem.” — On what do you base this statement, exactly? We have discussed exactly two symbols — crucifixes and swastikas. So, because I believe the extremely offensive nature of swastikas in Germany fall beyond the latitude reasonably granted to the state, that means I would allow NO other symbols?

    Your logic escapes me.


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