Appeal of Crucifix Ban Is Accepted

European Court Accused of Overstepping Bounds

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STRASBOURG, France, MARCH 3, 2010 ( A five-judge panel at the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights accepted Tuesday an appeal filed by the Italian government to a November ruling that deemed crucifixes in public schools a violation of freedom.

Arguing that the crucifix is a symbol of Italian culture, the government on Jan. 28 filed an appeal of the European Court ruling. The Grand Chamber’s acceptance of the appeal is the first step in the process; in the coming months, the chamber will give its ruling in a final judgement.

“This is the first step of the victory, indeed it is already a victory in this case,» said Grégor Puppinck, director of the European Center for Law and Justice. «The Court has recognized that the November decision raised serious legal issues and must be reconsidered due to its lack of case law reference and due consideration of the margin of appreciation. We can consider that the Grand Chamber decision will be the real first true decision of this case.” 

The court’s November ruling was criticized as being based on a negative understanding of religious freedom, and as overstepping the cultural and religious traditions of individual nations.

The European Center for Law and Justice is encouraging other nations to associate themselves to the case as third parties, since a final ruling will be binding for them as well. Nations such as Poland and Romania often have religious symbols in schools, the center pointed out; and nations with a large presence of Orthodox Churches are deeply influenced by religious traditions.

“It is very important in this context that the European court respects the spiritual and moral values on which it is based,» Puppinck affirmed. “If the court ruled against its own spiritual and moral foundation it would ruin this European system which was founded to protect human rights.”

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