The European Court of Human Rights ruled that crucifixes in Italian public schools violate religious and education freedoms last November. The case, part of a larger debate over the role of religious symbols in public places, has sharpened divisions between secular and religious advocacy groups.
Italian courts have previously ruled that the display of crucifixes is part of Italian national identity and not an attempt at conversion, an argument expanded by New York University legal scholar Joseph Weiler on behalf of the governments of Italy, Armenia, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Malta, San Marino, Romania and Russia, who are appealing the ruling.
The decisions of the court — an arm of the Council of Europe, the continent’s premier human rights watchdog — are binding on the council’s 47 member states and therefore have an impact far beyond Italy.
The appeals ruling will be by the the grand chamber of 19 judges, compared to the original seven judge panel. This points to the weight given to this case. The decision is expected September or October.