The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that crucifixes are acceptable in public school classrooms. Reversing an earlier decision, the court found no evidence that “the display of such a symbol on classroom walls might have an influence on pupils.” All 47 countries of the Council of Europe are obliged to obey the decision. The Guardian reports:
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that crucifixes are acceptable in the continent’s state school classrooms, describing them as an “essentially passive symbol” with no obvious religious influence. In its judgment, handed down in Strasbourg, the court found that while the crucifix was “above all a religious symbol” there was no evidence that its display on classroom walls might have an influence on pupils.
The ruling reverses their earlier, unanimous decision from 2009 in favour of a Finnish-born mother who said that state schools in the Italian town of Abano Terme, where she lives, refused to remove the Roman Catholic symbols from classrooms.
Soile Lautsi said the crucifix violated the secular principles that state schools were meant to uphold. The court agreed, saying children were entitled to freedom of religion and that although “encouraging” for some pupils, the crucifix could be “emotionally disturbing for pupils of other religions or those who profess no religion”.
It said the state had an obligation “to refrain from imposing beliefs, even indirectly, in places where persons are dependent on it or in places where they are particularly vulnerable”.
According the Associated Press,
[t]he Vatican hailed the “historic” decision, saying it showed that crucifixes weren’t a form of indoctrination but rather “an expression of the cultural and religious identity of traditionally Christian countries.”