Redefining Religious Neutrality: Lautsi vs. Italy and the European Court of Human Rights
Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) at the University of Michigan
April 3, 2011
In 2001, Finnish-born Soile Lautsi, an Italian citizen and atheist, sued the Italian school that her two children attended for violating their right to religious freedom by displaying crucifixes in its classrooms. The case was thrown out by Italian administrative courts and the Italian Constitutional Court, so in 2006 Lautsi appealed the decision to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg. The case became known as Lautsi vs. Italy, and in 2009, the Court ruled in favor of Lautsi, arguing that the display of crucifixes in Italian classrooms violates religious and educational freedoms guaranteed in Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The ruling caused an uproar in the Italian political sphere, and so Italy has proceeded to appeal the decision to the ECHR’s 17-member grand chamber. After months of deliberation, on March 18th, 2011, the Court proceeded to reverse its ruling, highlighting the continuing trials and tribulations it is facing as it expands its role in ensuring religious neutrality on the part of European states. Even with the Court’s reversed ruling, it is clear that it is increasingly laying the foundation for an unprecedented enlargement of its jurisprudence in cases of religious neutrality.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 20
Keywords: laicite, religious neutrality, European Court of Human Rights, Lautsi vs. Italy, European Convention on Human Rights, religious freedomworking papers series
Date posted: February 20, 2011 ; Last revised: December 19, 2011
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