Court Bans Use of Crucifixes in Italian Classrooms

The European Court of Human Rights made a ruling on Tuesday to ban the use of crucifixes in Italian classrooms much to the dismay of Italian government and religious officials.

The ruling was made in favor of mother-of-two Soile Lautsi who filed a complaint against the Italian government in 2006 saying that the crucifixes violated her rights to offer her children a secular education.

The court awarded Lautsi $7,390 in damages but stopped short of ordering Italy to remove the crucifixes.

"The presence of the crucifix ... could be encouraging for religious pupils, but also disturbing for pupils who practiced other religions or were atheists, particularly if they belonged to religious minorities," the court said in a statement, adding that state-run schools must, "observe confessional neutrality in the context of public education."

The Vatican received news of the ruling with "shock and sadness," according to spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, who said that the European Court's decision was "wrong and myopic."

"It seems as if the court wanted to ignore the role of Christianity in forming Europe's identity, which was and remains essential," he said.

Italian Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini said, "In our country nobody wants to impose the Catholic religion, let alone with a crucifix," but added that, "it is not by eliminating the traditions of individual countries that a united Europe is built."

Government officials were also disturbed by the news, with members of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government calling the ruling "shameful," "offensive," "absurd," "unaccpetable," and "pagan," according to Reuters.

The Italian government has said it will appeal the decision.

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