Italy can’t make 2 plus 2 equal 5
Posted by sanityinjection on November 5, 2009
I have often blogged in support of religious expression against what I perceive as excessive repression in the name of secularism. However, it does happen that sometimes the secularists are in the right. So it is with a recent case in the European Court in which the Italian government lost its attempt to defend the widespread practice of displaying a crucifix in public school classrooms.
Italy, of course is a traditionally Catholic nation, and the crucifix is a familiar symbol in every city and village there. But Italy is also a country that claims to adhere to the European Union’s standards of freedom of religion. So when a parent complained about the presence of a crucifix in her child’s public school classroom and sought unsuccessfully to have it removed, she appealed all the way to the European Court.
Italy argued unsuccessfully that the crucifix was a traditional symbol of Italian culture. In fact, there is nothing about crucifixes in Italy that makes them unique to Italy or any different than those found in Spain, France, or any other Catholic area. Italy also insisted – rather ridiculously – that the crucifix is a symbol of unity, tolerance, and secularism. Secularism??
This would certainly come as news to anyone familiar with the Inquisition or the Jewish ghettoes. Yes, modern Italy is a relatively secular and tolerant country, but the crucifix is hardly a symbol of that modernity.
Ironically, courtrooms in Italy also display crucifixes. The Euro court’s ruling would seem to open up the ability to challenge that practice as well.
The point is not that Italy is deliberately trying to foist Catholicism on its citizens. Rather, it’s that the prominent display of the symbol of a very specific religious domination is inherently discriminatory and exclusionary to those who practice a different faith or none at all.
There is a separate argument to be made here about whether an international court should have the right to tell a sovereign state such as Italy what it can and cannot do – but that is something Italy should have considered as part of its membership in the European Union.