VATICAN CITY, JUNE 23, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The decision of the European Court of Human Rights to ban the crucifix from Italian classrooms is a result of the encroachment of “secularist fundamentalism” and “Christianophobia,” says the former president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.
Cardinal Julián Herranz Casado said this today in Rome at a round table event organized by the Christian Humanism Association, with the sponsorship of the office of Italy’s prime minister. The title of the event was “Values and Rights: The Value of the Crucifix.”
In November, the human rights court ruled in favor of an Italian citizen of Finnish origin who complained in 2002 that the state school where her two children studied violated their freedom by displaying crucifixes.
Italy launched an appeal in January, contending that the crucifix is part of Italian cultural patrimony. Since then, 10 other member states have joined Italy’s appeal as third parties. At stake is not only the crucifix ban, but also the limits of the jurisdiction of the human rights court.
The court’s Grand Chamber will hold a public hearing on June 30, and the final judgment on the case is expected by the end of the year.
Cardinal Herranz explained that the ruling is a result of a growing “secularist fundamentalism” that seeks to “relegate the Christian faith and religion in general to the mere private realms of personal conscience, excluding all signs, symbols or external manifestation of the faith in public places and civil institutions (schools, hospitals, etc.).”
The 80-year-old cardinal said the erroneous reasoning behind the court’s decision asserts that the presence of the crucifix in classrooms is “contrary to the right of parents to educate their children in line with their own convictions, and to the right of children to religious liberty,” as the atmosphere of the school would be “marked by a specific religion.”
The court, he continued, also wrongly affirmed that the presence of the crucifix might be “emotionally disturbing,” and that its display might not “foment critical thought in pupils” or the “educational pluralism” that is essential to preserve a “democratic society.”
“This decision,” the Spanish cardinal responded, “makes reference without a motive — because the mere display of the crucifix does not have an imperative or discriminatory character — to the religious liberty of non-Christian pupils, while it does not respect Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which affects Christian pupils of Italian schools and the ‘patria potestas’ of their parents.”
“This norm,” Cardinal Herranz stressed, “guarantees the right of religious liberty, which includes among other things: ‘the liberty to manifest one’s religion or belief, individually and collectively, both in public as well as in private, by teaching, practice, worship and observance.'”
In second place, the cardinal indicated that “secularism certainly represents a constitutive principle of democratic states,” but noted that the court ignores the rights of states to “determine in each case their concrete forms of application, in the light of the different circumstances and local traditions.”
Secularism, he insisted, “is not an ideological principle that must be imposed on society violating the traditions, feelings and religious beliefs of the citizens.”
Cardinal Herranz said that the Strasbourg Court confuses the meaning of “the neutrality or a-confessionality of the state” with the idea that “the state must be ‘anti-confessional,’ that is, opposed to the presence in public institutions of any religious sign or symbol.”
“This attitude of rejection of religion would make of atheism a sort of ideology or state religion,” he stressed.
Moreover, the Opus Dei cardinal continued, “it seems that the court has exceeded illegitimately the limits of its own competence, pronouncing itself on a question that affects the legitimate and due safeguarding on the part of the state of the national traditions and culture, as well as the commitments assumed with concordats or particular conventions with the Catholic Church and eventually with other religious confessions.”
He spoke of “strong media powers and some political groups that for a long time have supported the ideology of secularist fundamentalism” and who hope for a law of religious liberty that would prohibit “crucifixes and other religious signs […] in public institutions and official ceremonies (schools, courts, hospitals, state funerals, etc.).”
And they do this, the cardinal added, knowing that “the majority of citizens, if consulted in a referendum, would vote against this.”