Thursday 17 June 2010
Crucifix not an imposition but an invitation
Speaking ahead of an expected decision later this month of the European Court of Human Rights in an appeal case relating to the display of religious symbols in public, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, President of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland said:
“Europe is a multicultural and pluralistic continent where Church and State are clearly separated and the rights of believers and non-believers are respected. Respecting these distinctions does not mean we should reject the cultural tradition of our nations. In Scotland, our Christian tradition is testified to eloquently by the presence of Church spires and steeples across our urban and rural landscapes.
Clearly, where a country’s traditions are Christian, the symbols of that faith are naturally accepted and appreciated for the contribution that the Christian message has provided to the creation of our present day societies, built on the respect of the dignity of every human person.”
Cardinal O’Brien added;
“As we await the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in regard to the display of religious symbols in state schools <#_ftn1> we need to remember how sweeping the implications of this decision could be. The precious religious heritage of many people and nations across Europe as well as the values of authentic tolerance and freedom of belief that are propounded in democratic societies are under threat.
I hope that the European Court of Human Rights will uphold the values of freedom and tolerance, which are integral to our Christian heritage.
Cardinal O’Brien concluded;
“In a society which does not have a proper understanding of Christianity it is our duty as Christians to explain that the cross symbolises the generosity of God who offers freedom and salvation to all. It is not an imposition of religion but rather an invitation and a sign of Christian solidarity with all peoples.”
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Note to Editors:
The case referred to is - European Court of Human Rights, Decision N. 30814/06, Lausti v Italy
Wednesday 30 June 2010 at 9.15 a.m.
Grand Chamber hearing in the case of Lautsi v. Italy (no. 30814/06)
The applicant, Ms Soile Lautsi, is an Italian national who lives in Abano Terme (Italy). In 2001-2002 her children, Dataico and Sami Albertin, aged 11 and 13 respectively, attended the State school “Istituto comprensivo statale Vittorino da Feltre” in Abano Terme. All of the classrooms had a crucifix on the wall, including those in which Ms Lautsi’s children had lessons. She considered that this was contrary to the principle of secularism by which she wished to bring up her children. At a meeting of the school’s governing body the applicant’s husband raised the question of the display of religious symbols in classrooms and asked if they could be removed. In May 2002 the governors decided to leave the crucifixes in the classrooms. A directive recommending such an approach was subsequently sent to all head teachers by the Ministry of State Education.
On 23 July 2002 the applicant complained to the Veneto Regional Administrative Court about the decision by the school’s governing body, on the ground that it infringed the constitutional principles of secularism and of impartiality on the part of the public authorities. In 2005 the administrative court dismissed the applicant’s complaint. It held that the crucifix was both the symbol of Italian history and culture, and consequently of Italian identity, and the symbol of the principles of equality, liberty and tolerance, as well as of the State’s secularism. By a judgment of 13 February 2006, the Consiglio di Stato dismissed an appeal by the applicant.
On 3 November 2009 <http://cmiskp.echr.coe.int/tkp197/view.asp?action=html&documentId=857732&portal=hbkm&source=externalbydocnumber&tabl> the European Court of Human Rights held that there had been a violation of Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 (right to education) taken together with Article 9 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion). The panel of five judges of the Grand Chamber, meeting on 1 and 2 March 2010, accepted the referral request submitted by the Italian Government on 28 January 2010.
At the end of the hearing the Court will begin its deliberations. It will give a final decision at a later date in the form of a judgment.
Decisions, judgments and further information about the Court can be found on its Internet site (http://www.echr.coe.int <http://www.echr.coe.int/>