Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Cheers for ECHR: Crucifix in school offends human rights

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-11-04

Congratulations to the EU Court of Human Rights judgement that crucifixes in schools offend human rights – and it was unanimous.  Big thanks to the Finnish parent in Italy that brought the action and a big yah-boo-sucks to the Vatican spokesman, Federico Lombardi, who said the crucifix was a fundamental sign of the importance of religious values in Italian history and culture, and was a symbol of unity and welcoming for all of humanity, not one of exclusion.

The Court disagreed and found – unanimously – a violation of the freedom of religion (Art. 9 ECHR) jointly with the right to education (Art. 2 of Protocol 1). The Court, amongst others, took into account the nature of the religious symbol concerned (amongst the plurality of meanings, the Court held that the religious connotation of the crucifix was dominant) and its impact on young children.

Further, the ECHR blogger says the following:

One may note, that the Court thinks this applies in general in the exercise of public functions by the state and particularly (but not solely) in classrooms.

The learned arguments in the ECHR judgement could be used to get a little sanity into Darwin council, which has ruled that the Christian "Lord’s" prayer is non-religious.

What with the Global Atheists Convention coming up in Melbourne, perhaps the idiots in Darwin could be taken to court at the same time, with an atheist lawyer using the ECHR judgement to show the invalidity of the Darwin council’s ruling on logical grounds… although we cannot claim it contravenes any human rights here in Australia because we don’t have any.

Yes, a crucifix offends freedom of religion.  Yes!  That’s perhaps why KRudd and the irrational politicians in Canberra with imaginary friends don’t want human rights – we might be able to inject some rationality into parliament by getting rid of religious references in the parliamentary liturgy!

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17 Responses to “Cheers for ECHR: Crucifix in school offends human rights”

  1. Joe Ndluli said

    you may be surprised to know that there are millions of Christians around the world – not only in Italy. These persons (like the Italians) find the daily erosion of their traditions saddening. Especially so, when these traditions are replaced with NOTHING. You mention freedom of religion. But where is the Christian’s freedom? In many cases it is removed in case it causes an offence to someone! Decsion makers seem to keep pushing towards a sanitised/ generic version of science-worship. The idea perpetuates: I saw a bus in London which displayed a huge banner on the side “God doesn’t exist. So stop worrying & enjoy yourself”. While this exhibit, shows tolerance by society, I thought of it in an African context.

    In Africa we unfortunately have experience of youth & leaders who ‘don’t worry & who do enjoy themselves….’. I’m sure you know the consequences of a corrupt ruling elite; who have no moral compass?! The murderous facts speak for themselves. Basically, some societies have now lost their traditions, have been ‘modernised’ & in effect told by leaders that such-and-such tradition violates someones freedom of something. So in effect we have got rid of our moral traditions. Those things which make us unique, a community and solidify our inter-realtionship. These are replaced with attitudes of greed, selfishness and anger. In the long term then; who has this “change” benefitted & to what end has it made society better? You can even see how in the EU, the morality of the younger generation has been eroded. A sense of despair & uncertainty has set in, in many areas. Such people resort to drugs & alcohol as a means to escape what seems a hopeless future. There’s a prepondence of psychiatric problems.

    So show your tolerance & open mindness in that; there are citizens of Italy who are proud of their religion. They want to display their religion via their traditional symbols. Italy has been Christian for thousands of years. The symbols have been the same for thousands of years. Such people too, have their rights.
    In this recent case which is which we see taking place now, in Italy – one must ask, what was the persons’ motive? Was the woman an anto-Christian activist or were her kids being coerced? If it’s simply a person taking a stance ‘against’ traditional institutions – then so much more the loss to society.

    As for the modern Christians themselves – what do they do to benefit society? Mainstream Christian groups have built (& maintain) hundreds of schools & medical clinics around the world (ie: India, Africa, China). Also, built thousands of shelters and feed tens of thousands of kids/ abused women daily (ie: Palestine, Nepal, Tibet). In addition there are scholarship programs, work shops for business start-ups etc in many 3rd World countries. This is all part of the role which mainstream Christians perform in our world.
    So in response to your comments, NO, I don’t think that ‘congratulations’ are in order.

  2. True, but there should still be an option for private schools to have this sort of thing if parents choose religious schooling for their kids.

  3. Jayjee said

    Be careful what you wish for. If the airheads like McLelland, Brennan, and the telebimboes on that Consultation Committe get their way, we too will end up with a positive “right to religion” which is nothing but a green light to social discord. The negative right currently in our Constitution is all the law really should say on the matter.

  4. Jayjee said

    For the Europeans to have ommitted explict assocations of Europe with Xianity in either the various EU- constitution thingy’s or the Human Rights Declaration was as historical wrong as it was a socio-political mistake. After all, without Xianity, there is no Europe.

  5. Dave Bath said

    JayJee@3 : As successfully argued at the ECHR, freedom OF religion implies freedom FROM religion, especially where the state can be seen as backing the religion, however subtly.

    JayJee@4 : Esp if you like Gibbon, Xtianity largely DESTROYED Europe (and Western civilization) for about a millenium from Constantine (or perhaps soon after Justinian) until well after the Jews in Cordoba helped us reclaim it by translating the bits of Greece and Rome that had been preserved in Arabic, and perhaps as recently as Napoleon’s Continental System. I think the upcoming film “Agora”, about the Matyrdom of Hypatia, often pinpointed as the day the dark ages (a.k.a. Xtianity triumphant) started. See "Hypatia makes NS most inspirational Woman scientist list" (2009-07-25), "Hypatia, Logos, Rise of Christianity etc" (2009-07-28) and the links in that second post… especially the comments section in "Athena, Hypatia, et al" (2008-03-08).

    We aren’t in Oz even officially back to the 362 Tolerance Edict issued by one of my favorite emperors Julian the Apostate. Of course, the Xtians HATED the idea of religious tolerance enforced by law, not only because they couldn’t attack non-Xtians, but because they could attack each other. Mind you, one of Julian’s “persecutions” involved saying to Xtians “Hey, if you are a Xtian and reckon the your holy book is the word of your god and is so fantastic, then you can teach grammar and oratory out of IT and NOT use Homer or pagan authors, so there! (Well, maybe apart from my old tutor, because I owe him big time for teaching me the classics, even if he IS a bleeping Galilean)”

  6. Jayjee said

    I adore Gibbon as a stylist and a bitch who leaves Gore Vidal back in the powder room. Have you read his thoughts on Justinian’s wife, Theodora? Priceless. But I don’t rate him as a great analyst. Remember, he was a product of the naivety and presumptions of his time.

    However, one assessment on which I do sympathise with Gibbon is Charlemagne. I argue Europe as a cohesive geo-cultural entity was only sparked by Charlemagne in 800, when he integrated the Franks, Germans, Italians, Bavarians, the northern Spaniards, Saxons, Slavs (I can’t remember every darn one :) ) under the one Carolingian kingdom and empire.

    The appellation of great has been often bestowed, and sometimes deserved; but Charlemagne is the only prince in whose favor the title has been indissolubly blended with the name. That name, with the addition of saint, is inserted in the Roman calendar; and the saint, by a rare felicity, is crowned with the praises of the historians and philosophers of an enlightened age.

    And it was a Xian empire when the Pope anointed Charlemagne the very first “Holy Roman Emperor” in 800. This political integration was Charlemagne’s political legacy to Europe. This Holy Roman Empire was orthodox Roman Catholic.

    While much of the greatness did not survive Charlie’s demise, some crucial elements that would give Europe its cohesive cultural identity did. I argue Charlemagne’s insistence that all Roman Catholic cathedrals build a school next door was Charlemagne’s great cultural legacy to Europe – arguably Europe’s “first Renaissance” as these led the slow recovery of Greek science, before the explosion of learning that accompanied the rush of university building in the 12/13th century -arguably Europe’s “second Renaissance”.

    It is senseless to speak of ‘Europe’ without Xianity. In the particular case here, ee are talking about fucking Italy, FFS.

    If this Finnish sheilah wants her child educated in a school environment that has had it cultural, spiritual, and ethical edifice bleached with the burnt offerings of “secular pluralism” and courts in Strasbourg, she could send her kid to a private school that indulges that faddish tripe.

    Better still, why doesn’t she catch the next husky sleigh back to Helsinki, or Oulu? After all, Finnish schools have the highest performing students in the world on those standardised tests.

  7. Dave Bath said

    Jayjee@6 said “I adore Gibbon”

    Aha! Snap! I too adore Gibbon (and “powder room” is a placement of Vidal that would have been subtly accurate in more bigoted and judgemental times, but not today).

    I’ve often said that if you can’t read Cicero in the original language (but modern typography), then read Gibbon, and you’ll know exactly what it feels like.

    But in this less enlightened age, when Gibbon, as wondrous in English prose as any other, with subordinate clauses too deep and braided ideas too densely packed for the the highly graded yet untutored students of today, even a pale shadow of the cutting wit and style of the master, when applied to more recent events, is perhaps the best writing we can enjoy and expect.

  8. Jayjee said


    Putting aside the quality of historiography, I could read Gibbon all day. His style really does make one quiver!

  9. Dave Bath said

    Jack… perhaps we need a group of facebook “I adore Gibbon because I can parse him and get the jokes”, which I’d join along with "Bach is better than sex" and "I confess: I watch Question Time and I LIKE it" and "I own every West Wing and have watched them all"

  10. Jayjee said


    No doubt you’ve also read Procopius’ Secret History, which in English translation bears a remarkable stylistic similarity to Gibbon, n’est pas?

  11. Dave Bath said

    Yes, and Graves’ “Second Secret Pilfering” (aka Count Belisarius) both in Penguin. Justinian as written (and SL raises doubts about veracity) seems to have been as imprudent in choosing wives as he was prudent in choosing “Law Reform Commissioners”.

  12. Dave Bath said

    JG … and did you like my quick attempt at channelling in the final para @7?

  13. Jayjee said


    Nonsense! I would give my left nut to be known as the man who married the bear tamer’s daughter! :)

  14. Dave Bath said

    Jayyjee@13… Left nut? Metaphorically, that’s what Procopius said she made Justinian pay!

  15. Jayjee said


    Just to revert for a mo’ from the far more stimulating musing of Messrs Gibbon and Procopius, re your post #5, I argued in psst #3 explicitly against a right to religion. And thus I certainly argue against a right from religion. I’m the litlle bear (or was it piggy) who thinks the current Australian ‘rights’ attitude to the matter is well covered by s.116 of the Constitution:

    116. The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.

    That is enough for me.

  16. Dave Bath said

    That bit only constrains the Cth, but not the states nor councils, and certainly doesn’t prevent arbitrary rulings that religious activities by varying levels of government are non-religious even when they patently are.

    This is just the tip of the iceberg, however, with the especially lenient treatment of organizations that can “self-regulate” mistreatment of children and other vulnerable persons (e.g. Pell’s Mafia), flout electoral law (e.g. Exclusive Brethren), and automatically grant religious bodies the ability to define who gets statutory powers beyond the level or ordinary citizens (the ability to take statutory declarations, the ability to formalize marriages, etc). And then there are the cosy tax avoidance possibilities.

    All these imply that religions, but not atheist/agnostic organizations, have, under laws and regulations, extraordinary privileges.

  17. Jayjee said


    Oops, and my mistake. Theodora’s father was not the “tamer” of the bears, but the “keeper”. What good are “tame” bears??

    On s.116 you might be right. But I think you might be being hypervigilant. We don’t have significant state/religion problems in this country. Why start them by legislating a positive right to religion?

    Also, what you wrote above about Hypatia really, really, REALLY overstates her status as a mathematician. I’ve studied the history of Mathematics, and have an interest in HPSC. In neither does Hypatia rate even a footnote.

    Also, you are way, way, way simplifying and tabloiding the evolution of the relationship between Xianity, the decaying western Roman empire (though not the East), and the ultimate emergence of “Europe” out of that crumbling.

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