ROME (Reuters) - The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Tuesday that crucifixes should be removed from Italian classrooms, prompting Vatican anger and sparking uproar in Italy, where such icons are embedded in the national psyche.
"The ruling of the European court was received in the Vatican with shock and sadness," said Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, adding that it was "wrong and myopic" to try to exclude a symbol of charity from education.
The ruling by the court in Strasbourg, which Italy said it would appeal, said crucifixes on school walls -- a common sight that is part of every Italian's life -- could disturb children who were not Christians. [...]
Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said the court had dealt a "mortal blow to a Europe of values and rights," adding that it was a bad precedent for other countries.
Condemnation crossed party lines. Paola Binetti, a Catholic in the opposition Democratic Party, the successor of what was once the West's largest communist party, said: "In Italy, the crucifix is a specific sign of our tradition."
The case was brought by an Italian national, Soile Lautsi, who complained that her children had to attend a public school in northern Italy which had crucifixes in every room. [...]
Lautsi, the woman who filed the suit, said crucifixes on walls ran counter to her right to give her children a secular education and the Strasbourg-based court ruled in her favor.
"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 written ruling.
"The State (must) refrain from imposing beliefs in premises where individuals were dependent on it," it added, saying the aim of public education was "to foster critical thinking."
The proponents of secularism pretend that secularism is the only logical, neutral way for a state to be. The state, according to a secularist, can't approve of religion or even give the impression that it thinks that religious or moral values are generally something to respect or encourage. Any positive recognition that a state gives to any religion is, in a secularist's mind, a violation of the rights of non-religious citizens; thus a state must insist that every appearance of religion be removed from public institutions.
The problems with that are legion, of course. Since the state is forbidden ever to speak positively of religion, but must frequently speak and act against it, the citizen is left with the impression that religion is, from the state's point of view, an undesirable quality in the citizenry. The removal of all religious symbols from public institutions fosters the notion that religion and the state are natural enemies, instead of being partners in the many areas where the interests of Church and state coincide. The imposition of a religion-less view of the world upon the people of the state further creates the illusion that it is perfectly possible to create a society in which religion is nothing but a pleasant pastime for those who choose to engage in it, but is no more important to a society or culture than such things as sports or entertainment.
The belief, though, that religion is a somewhat undesirable quality in a citizen, that the Church and state are natural enemies, and that religion is no more meaningful than a love of golf or a hobby of amateur theater is itself a kind of religion. Imposing these beliefs on citizens for whom religion is an important and necessary thing, for whom the Church and state ought to be natural allies in a perfect world, and for whom religion is a vital element of a rich and happy life is a far graver violation of the rights of religious citizens than the mere presence of a symbol of one or more religions in a public setting. This imposition forces Christians, Jews, Muslims, and a host of others to pretend in public environs that religion is a small and private matter which is subordinate to their common citizenship, when nothing could ever be further from the truth.
Crucifixes in a classroom--or Stars of David or crosses or any other major religion's symbols, for that matter--aren't going to harm children who don't share a culture's religion. But secularism, with its amorality and tendency to worship the state itself in the absence of anything better to worship, may cause harm--especially when the culture of the state's citizens is overwhelmingly formed by a particular religion, such as the culture of Italy is in regard to Catholicism. Asking the people of that particular state to tear down their ancient symbols of faith is a grave violation of their human rights.