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Finnish-Italian Mother Loses Crucifix Fight

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled against a Finnish-Italian mother in a long running legal battle over religious symbols in classrooms. Soile Lautsi-Albert, who was born in Finland, argued that crucifixes in Italian classrooms breached the human rights of non-Catholic parents and children.

Image: EPA

When school authorities refused to remove the crucifixes, Lautsi-Albert took the case further in a lengthy legal battle that eventually reached the ECHR.

The court had previously ruled in Lautsi-Albert’s favour, that the presence of crucifixes in classrooms breached the right of parents to educate their children in line with their convictions and to "the right of children to freedom of religion and thought."

The Italian government appealed the decision, leading to today’s ruling.

In the new ruling, passed by 15 votes to 2, the ECHR ruled that "while the crucifix was above all a religious symbol, there was no evidence before the court that the display of such a symbol on classroom walls might have an influence on pupils".

The court said that the crucifixes needed to be placed in perspective, that there was no compulsory religious education, and no evidence that staff were intolerant of non-catholic students.

Catholicism is no longer the state religion in Italy, but a fascist-era decree that was never revoked mandates the presence of crucifixes in schools.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini hailed the new judgement, saying that ”today Europe’s popular sentiment won out.”

The ruling was also welcomed by the Vatican and the Lithuanian Justice Minister, Remigijus Simasius.

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