The ruling could force a review of the use of religious symbols in government-run schools across Europe. Saying the crucifix could be disturbing to non-Christian or atheist pupils, the court in Strasbourg rejected arguments by Italy’s government that it was a national symbol of culture, history, identity, tolerance and secularism. The Italian government immediately said it would appeal, with one minister saying the court should be ashamed and a conservative senator calling the ruling “absurd”.
Italian bishops said they were perplexed by the ruling. “The multiple significance of the crucifix, which is not just a religious symbol but a cultural sign, has been either ignored or overlooked,” the Italian Bishops Conference said.
The court ordered the government to pay a ?5,000 (£4,500) fine to Soile Lautsi, the mother of two children who claimed public schools refused eight years ago to remove the Roman Catholic symbols from classrooms. However, the seven-judge panel stopped short of ordering Italy to remove the crucifixes.
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