Wednesday, November 04, 2009

A victory for freedom of religion in Italy

The European Court of Human Rights has issued an important decision today, ruling unanimously that the compulsory display of crucifixes in Italian classrooms violates freedom of religion. Its a complete no-brainer. So naturally, the Vatican disagrees:

The Vatican said it was shocked by the ruling, calling it "wrong and myopic" to exclude the crucifix from education.


Vatican spokesman the Rev Federico Lombardi said the European court had no right intervening in such a profoundly Italian matter, the Associated Press reported.

Somehow, I think they'd feel differently if it was a pentagram or a Koran in every classroom. But then, the Vatican has never really believed in freedom of religion, have they?

What's surprising isn't that the court made this ruling (something it had every right to do; Italy is a party to the ECHR and thus subject to the court's jurisdiction), but that the Italian courts didn't. Freedom of religion is enshrined in the Italian Constitution, but reading the summary of the ruling, it seems the Italian courts bent over backwards to avoid enforcing it in this case. Its a clear failure of the Italian legal system to protect fundamental rights - and exactly the sort of problem the ECHR was intended to remedy.