Rome, Oct. 26 (Reuters): Italian government ministers and cardinals lined up to defend the presence of crucifixes in Italy’s classrooms today after a judge ruled that a school should remove crosses from its walls.
Acting on a complaint from Adel Smith, a Muslim activist who did not want his two children to see crucifixes at their primary school, a court in the central city of L’Aquila said yesterday the symbols had to go.
The judge wrote that the crucifixes “show the state’s unequivocal will to place Catholicism at the centre of the universe...in public schools, without the slightest regard for the role of other religions in human development”.
The ruling caused fury among religious authorities and many politicians in a country that has officially split Church from state but remains deeply attached to its Roman Catholic roots.
“This is an outrageous decision that should be overturned as quickly as possible. It is unacceptable that one judge should cancel out millennia of history,” said labour minister Roberto Maroni today.
Justice minister Roberto Castelli said he would order an inquiry into whether the decision conformed with Italian law, threatening sanctions if it did not.
Two laws stating that schools must display crucifixes date from the 1920s, when Italy was a monarchy and the Fascists were in power, and are still technically in effect. But since 1984, when Roman Catholicism ceased being state religion under a new concordat with the Vatican, the laws have not been strictly enforced. Some teachers have removed crucifixes from school walls while many have left them.
Smith, whose complaint launched the court case, defended the ruling. “Italy is not the Vatican,” he told La Repubblica.