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European Court of Human Rights’ ruling against crucifixes in Italian classrooms

Written declaration No. 437 | Doc. 12150 | 28 January 2010

Mr Mogens JENSEN, Denmark, SOC ; Mr Francis AGIUS, Malta, EPP/CD ; Ms Magdalina ANIKASHVILI, Georgia, ALDE ; Mr Ryszard BENDER, Poland, EDG ; Ms Marie-Louise COLEIRO PRECA, Malta, SOC ; Mr Per DALGAARD, Denmark, EDG ; Mr Paata DAVITAIA, Georgia, EDG ; Mr Joseph DEBONO GRECH, Malta, SOC ; Mr Joseph FALZON, Malta, EPP/CD ; Mr Mike HANCOCK, United Kingdom, ALDE ; Mr Jan KAŹMIERCZAK, Poland, EPP/CD ; Mr Peter KELLY, Ireland, ALDE ; Mr Franz Eduard KÜHNEL, Austria, EPP/CD ; Mr Terry LEYDEN, Ireland, ALDE ; Mr Dariusz LIPIŃSKI, Poland, EPP/CD ; Ms Sophie LØHDE, Denmark, ALDE ; Mr Theo MAISSEN, Switzerland, EPP/CD ; Mr Jean-Claude MIGNON, France, EPP/CD ; Ms Miroslava NĚMCOVÁ, Czech Republic ; Mr Amadeu ROSSELL TARRADELLAS, Andorra, ALDE ; Mr Paul ROWEN, United Kingdom, ALDE ; Mr Hans Christian SCHMIDT, Denmark ; Mr Scott SIMMS, Canada ; Mr Hans Kristian SKIBBY, Denmark, EDG ; Mr Hans Kristian SKIBBY, Denmark, EDG ; Ms Michaela ŠOJDROVÁ, Czech Republic ; Mr Joan TORRES PUIG, Andorra, ALDE ; Mr Frans WEEKERS, Netherlands

On 3 November 2009 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that crucifixes hanging in Italian classrooms violate religious and educational freedoms. We, the undersigned members of the Assembly, strongly dissociate ourselves from this ruling for the following reasons:

  • crucifixes are no longer only religious symbols but are also broadly considered to represent Italian history and identity;
  • no religious activities are imposed on pupils in Italian schools and they are not coerced into adoring the crucifixes displayed in their classrooms;
  • the ruling is based on Paragraph 9 of the Convention which grants freedom of religion but not equality between religions. Only if this was the case would the State be obliged to be neutral towards all religions to ensure freedom of religion;
  • the ruling is in conflict with the concept of “Margin of Appreciation” obliging the Court to take into account cultural, historic, and philosophical differences between Strasbourg and the nation in question.

We are concerned about how the ruling will affect the rights of countries with a state religion to display religious symbols in public spaces in general;

We believe this ruling to be political thus going beyond the jurisdiction of the Court.