The crucifix post-Strasbourg

Carla Corsetti, the Secretary of Democrazia Atea –  Italy’s only explicitly atheist political party – has penned a response to the Strasbourg ruling that religious symbols in public schools are not in violation of human rights. Corsetti is a lawyer who has herself appealed to the Administrative Regional Court (TAR) of Lazio over the presence of the crucifix in her son’s schoolroom. Here is that link, in English.

Winners and Losers by Carla Corsetti

Culture wars have neither winners nor losers; either everyone wins or everyone loses. The difference is measured by who is aware of this and who isn’t. And we are among those who understand the universal value of certain conquests. The European Court has told us that the crucifix is a passive symbol, inert, and it has told us that decorating public schools with it isn’t in violation of human rights.

This interpretation – which we do not share – won’t stop us. We don’t feel culturally defeated and, on closer inspection, the Catholics themselves are the losers. After this ruling no Catholic will be able to calmly assert that the crucifix is a symbol which “unites”, or that is it shared peacefully. After this ruling the crucifix is trapped between those who wish to impose it through abuse of power and those who refuse to submit to it. By now the crucifix is unequivocally, definitively and irreversibly the symbol of a bullying religious confession at the expense of those who are not its members.

Catholics were unable to defend the crucifix as one defends the most precious things, which are to be cherished with discretion and in private. At the cost of imposing it they’ve deprived it of its religious significance, presented it as a cultural symbol and accepted its secularization. They weren’t even upset when someone justified its ostension as part of the furnishing of a public classroom, along with the chairs and the wastebaskets. They were the first to desecrate it.

We will accept the cultural and legal challenge while continuing to call attention to the fact that this is a symbol of death, a symbol which has accompanied genocide and war, massacre and rape, dirty business and paedophilia. It doesn’t belong to us, not even culturally, and from today onwards we have yet another reason to remove it from our children’s sight.

And here is a revamped crucifix reflecting the new reality.

It's our symbol, too, right?


6 thoughts on “The crucifix post-Strasbourg

  1. Hi Marco, I saw the following crucifix in a department store in Stockholm a couple of months back.
    As for the ruling, perhaps you can throw some light on this. I read the full decision in English and got the impression that the justices felt that the symbolism of the crucifix was very minor compared to active indoctrination through compulsory religious instruction.
    This particular viewpoint is important because the justices seemed to consider active indoctrination as being illegal and that what was going on in Italy didnt fall into that category. In other words they felt that children whose parents didnt want them to be taught catholicism would not be taught it. Thus, no problem.
    Although I live in Sweden I grew up in Ireland and can say for definite that active indoctrination IS part of Irish state education. To me the ruling is very bad news for the Catholic church in Ireland since it now provides a legal basis for challenging the religious influence in Irish education. Most Irish atheists would gladly choose a crucifix in the corner of the class over forced religious lessons any day.

    1. Well, Italy has it all, Sigmund. We have the crucifixes and (optional – though there aren’t really many other options) religious education in public schools. It’s not either/or. But that’s the current line of the Catholic Church and the government, that Catholicism is nothing more than “culture,” and somehow uniquely Italian at that. It’s like saying that the “Intelligent Designer” is just another scientific theory, like evolution. They are using secular arguments to push a religious agenda.

      Of course we want both the symbols and the catechism out of schools. But it seems this is part of a larger trend. In the end, though, religion will lose out because it’s being emptied of any (dubious) meaning it might once have had. Thanks for your comment.

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