Italians are hotly debating a recent ruling by the European Court of Human Rights against the display of crucifixes in public schools.
The court held in November that the presence of crucifixes in Italian classrooms could bother students who practice other faiths or who are atheists.
“Religious neutrality should be observed in the context of public education,” the court ruled, while also ordering that a woman who filed the suit on behalf of her two sons be paid 5,000 Euros ($7,390) in damages.
Some politicians didn’t like the decision.
“Nobody, much less a European court that is steeped in ideology, will be allowed to strip our identity away,” Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini said. “The history of Italy is full of symbols and if they are eliminated, a part of us will end up be [sic] eliminated.”
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi echoed those sentiments.
“This is one of those decisions that often make us doubt Europe’s good sense,” said Berlusconi, who plans to appeal the ruling.
The Vatican also expressed “shocked and sadness” at the ruling.
“Europe in the third millennium is leaving us only Halloween pumpkins while depriving us of our most beloved symbols,” said Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
Mayors around the country have reportedly vowed to defy the ruling, and thousands of people protested at various Web sites.