Ten countries have signed on to support Italy in the now-infamous Crucifix case being brought before the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). In March, the court agreed to hear an appeal of its ruling that Italy must ban crucifixes from public school classrooms.
Armenia, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Lithuania, Malta, Monaco, San Marino, Romania, and the Russian Federation, all members of the Council of Europe, have been accepted as “amicus curiae” intervenors in the case. As third party intervenors, the states have the right to present written and oral comments. The case is expected to be heard on June 30.
The European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ), which has also been admitted as a third party, said the intervention of the 10 countries is a good sign for European freedom of religion. The ECLJ, which is among 12 Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) admitted to intervene in the case, notes that no state or NGO has intervened against the Italian government.
The case was brought by an Italian resident of Finnish descent, Soile Lautsi, who claimed that her atheist children should not be forced to view a crucifix in school. She was awarded €5000 (about US $7200) in compensation. The ECHR ruled in November 2009 that “The compulsory display of a symbol of a given confession in premises used by the public authorities ... restricted the right of parents to educate their children in conformity with their convictions.”
The ECLJ noted also the “tremendous importance” of these 10 states joining forces, given that they are a combination of Catholic and Orthodox-dominated countries, working together “in the face of the liberal and secularist ideology.”