Give me that old time religion - or not.
June 27, 2011 12:32 PM   Subscribe

In 2002 a Mrs. Soile Tuulikki Lautsi, a Finnish/Italian woman and member of the Italian Union of Atheists, Agnostics and Rationalists objected to the crucifixes on the wall of her child’s public school.

Failing to win their removal through Italian courts, she sued in the European Court of Human Rights, claiming it violated European Convention on Human Rights.

In 2009, she won. Some were dismayed. Italy appealed. In March 2011, the court’s Grand Chamber reversed that ruling in a unanimous vote(pdf). Some were dismayed.

The decision is final. There are further links here for those interested in the legal arguments on both sides. (For those who simply enjoy good prose, I recommend the concurring decision (pdf), by Judge Bonello of Malta.)

Americans gear up for this kind of suit every Christmas, but the European venue naturally brings out other flavors. Consider these observations from Lithuania. See also the plaintiff's open letter (pdf) after the first judgement.
posted by IndigoJones (52 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Seems fine to me. What is wrong with forcing children to constantly observe a homoerotic depiction of grusome torture?
posted by goethean at 12:37 PM on June 27, 2011 [24 favorites]


I wrote my final year dissertation on the ECHR interpretation of Article 9, (back when lautsi was first, correctly, decided in the original chamber.) I was not surprised to see it overturned though, the courts jurisprudence on Article 9 is surprisingly conservative and often fails to stick up for freedom of religion issues in favour of the "margin of appreciation" (Which is ECHR speak for fudging the issue).
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 12:42 PM on June 27, 2011


OH MAN, I can't wait for Christmas this year! I'm pretty sure the christian conservatives, in all their myriad forms, will try to hold this up as some kind of precedent for us. I'll be there though, with all the other 'precedents' from Europe they've denied and decried.

C'mon, morons, be as stupid as you've been these past few months. Make my shriveled heart joyous.
posted by Slackermagee at 12:43 PM on June 27, 2011


I propose the tape-crusified toy sea turtle as a compromise. Yes, that's inside the Vatican.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:45 PM on June 27, 2011


Seems fine to me. What is wrong with forcing children to constantly observe a homoerotic depiction of grusome torture?
posted by goethean at 3:37 PM on June 27


Here's what the Court said:

"The Court found that, while the crucifix was above all a religious symbol, there was no evidence before the Court that the display of such a symbol on classroom walls might have an influence on pupils."

So why don't you enlighten the Court and explain what's wrong with it, instead of dropping in rhetorical questions that are clever. And what the hell is homoerotic about a crucifix?
posted by Pastabagel at 12:45 PM on June 27, 2011


And what the hell is homoerotic about a crucifix?

By "crucifix", do you mean a typically Protestant plain white cross, or a typically Catholic lovingly depicted nearly-naked guy being tortured to death? If it's the former, then never mind. If it's the latter, then take an art history class.
posted by goethean at 12:50 PM on June 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


And what the hell is homoerotic about a crucifix?

Two phallus' intersect.
posted by troll at 12:51 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


So why don't you enlighten the Court and explain what's wrong with it, instead of dropping in rhetorical questions that are clever.

There's nothing wrong with it, given that I am not opposed to homosexuality, (consensual) torture, or the depiction thereof. However, this may not be what the court had in mind. (Or, given that they are presumably Catholics, maybe it is!)
posted by goethean at 12:54 PM on June 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Meh. I'm an Italian atheist and the crucifix-in-public-schools is an battle we can't win, at least not right now. Most Italians, religious or not, claim that the crucifix is a cultural symbol as well as a religious one.

It's sad but I had no illusions that the verdict would be anything other than what it was.

And what the hell is homoerotic about a crucifix?

I don't know, probably a mostly naked young man straining in the throes of religious ecstasy?
posted by lydhre at 12:56 PM on June 27, 2011


Religion as such, sucks. If they have to put up icons, too bad they can't depict something that's supposed to have an uplifting effect--birth of Christ? Showing Christ beckoning the children? Nah, they like torture, death, hate.

Actually, I think it's stupid to get all pissy about a static icon when you let your kids see multiple scenes of violence and misogyny over and over in advertising and films.

But that's just me, being illogical again.
posted by BlueHorse at 1:00 PM on June 27, 2011


Jesus getting a blow job from a cardinal
posted by jeffburdges at 1:02 PM on June 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


By "crucifix", do you mean a typically Protestant plain white cross, or a typically Catholic lovingly depicted nearly-naked guy being tortured to death?

A crucifix is a representation of the body of Jesus on the cross. Without it, it's just called a cross.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:02 PM on June 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


I would say that the crucifix is homoerotic if there were another guy up there with him. As is, you might as well say that it's a little something for the ladies.
posted by brundlefly at 1:10 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


The crucifix IS supposed to be uplifting. In Catholic iconography is an instrument of torture and death repurposed as a symbol of love. It might not be what it means to you, but a devout Catholic would almost certainly see it as an uplifting symbol.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:12 PM on June 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


As is, you might as well say that it's a little something for the ladies.

Those buff, bearish Jesusi in Scandinavian churches indicate otherwise.
posted by griphus at 1:17 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Come on, let's not assume that women don't get aroused by looking at naked emaciated dudes in the midst of a prolonged snuff scene

Wait, what? Where are we even going with this?
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:21 PM on June 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Jesus getting a blow job from a cardinal

That ain't right, man. Jesus is clearly post pubescent there.
posted by fleetmouse at 1:22 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


or a typically Catholic lovingly depicted nearly-naked guy being tortured to death

Wouldn't it be simplest to leave the crucifix up there, but put a burka on the mostly-naked, throes-of-ecstasy-type guy? It seems to me that this is a compromise that would make everyone happy.
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:23 PM on June 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ok. Who's horny?
posted by troll at 1:28 PM on June 27, 2011


This didn't start out as LOLXTIANS, but it sure went there fast.
posted by DWRoelands at 1:29 PM on June 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


This didn't start out as LOLXTIANS, but it sure went there fast.

As the main offender, I have to say that the irony is absolutely irresistable. An object of the type that Christians would generally find a horrific abomination (homoerotic artwork), is instead forced on children because it coincides with their particular religious totem.
posted by goethean at 1:38 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's nothing inherently homoerotic about the crucifix. I don't think religious iconography should be forced on children, but your irresistible irony is perfectly resistible, and a hell of a derail.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:49 PM on June 27, 2011 [9 favorites]


Some days, LOLXTIANS is the only thing that keeps me from self-damaging amounts of rage. Your mileage may vary, obviously, but I can blame Christians, Italian Christians specifically, for a large number of things (lack of same-sex marriage and hideous misuse of medicine in IVF cases, to name two) that make living in Italy an exercise in masochism.

Also, calling religious iconography homoerotic is absolutely nothing new. Check out representations of Saint Sebastian, if you ever lack for BDSM soft porn.
posted by lydhre at 2:01 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some days, LOLXTIANS is the only thing that keeps me from self-damaging amounts of rage.

But is that sort of response appropriate in every single thread about the topic?
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:03 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


But is that sort of response appropriate in every single thread about the topic?

Is this a thread about Christians forcing representations of their religion on every child in my country? Because I can tell you that, at the very least, I find LOLXTIANS to be an appropriate response to this thread.
posted by lydhre at 2:06 PM on June 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hrm. I was going to write a comment about some of the interesting differences between the US and European legal regimes when it comes to religious iconography, and particularly how the US approach is informed by a kind of weird federalism, but given the tenor of the discussion, I think I'll pass.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:07 PM on June 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Some days, LOLXTIANS is the only thing that keeps me from self-damaging amounts of rage.

How fortunate that not everyone feels the way you do.

How unfortunate that it only takes a few people who do to grind an entire conversation to a halt.
posted by hermitosis at 2:12 PM on June 27, 2011


Let's crucify goethean!
posted by futz at 2:16 PM on June 27, 2011


lets...
posted by futz at 2:17 PM on June 27, 2011


If someone living in Italy is pissed about the way religion affects government there and is responding with anger and/or humor to an article about Italy and Christianity, then fine. How is that a derail?
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:18 PM on June 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hrm. I was going to write a comment about some of the interesting differences between the US and European legal regimes when it comes to religious iconography, and particularly how the US approach is informed by a kind of weird federalism, but given the tenor of the discussion, I think I'll pass.

You can still write that great comment! I believe in you!
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:19 PM on June 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Because now the topic is whether or not the image of a man being tortured to death is a turn-on for the gays.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:22 PM on June 27, 2011


Astro Zombie, you can still talk about whatever you want in relation to this topic. No one is stopping you.
posted by lydhre at 2:24 PM on June 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


The crucifix IS supposed to be uplifting. In Catholic iconography is an instrument of torture and death repurposed as a symbol of love. It might not be what it means to you, but a devout Catholic would almost certainly see it as an uplifting symbol.

And in the context of passion plays, this same imagery evokes in some people interracial hatred and revenge. Or to some kids it might have no meaning at all. Which is part of why it's totally inappropriate for secular institutions: the symbol is only meaningful in the context of Catholic doctrine. The only meaning that a crucifix has to someone raised outside Christianity is, "boy those folk sure want to force their doctrine on me via the State." Likewise, when religious meanings are upheld by the State they will be reinterpreted by the State for all kinds of purposes. When you protect the State from religious influence you are likewise protecting religion from State corruption. How this is not obvious to anyone who's ever cracked a history book is beyond me.
posted by Skwirl at 2:25 PM on June 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


"Moral indignation is a technique used to endow the idiot with dignity" - Marshall McLuhan
posted by fleetmouse at 2:28 PM on June 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


My comment wasn't meant to be any kind of support for putting a crucifix on the wall of a public school; I was just trying to point out that the Catholic church doesn't perceive this as a tool of "death, torture and hate." Personally, as a Christian, I'd rather my religious symbols be kept in religious contexts where their meaning won't be confused.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 2:30 PM on June 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


And here's a hint of why people might be upset about the cozy relationship between the government and religion that is represented by crucifixes in classrooms
One government minister shouted in front of the television cameras of the Italian National Broadcasting Service (RAI): “Death to those people [referring to the plaintiffs in the case, i.e. my family] and those international institutions [i.e., the European Court of Human Rights] that don’t count for anything.” Not a single member of the government raised a voice against these inflammatory statements.

Instead, following this and similar statements by other government officials, including the mayor of a city (who is also a Parliament deputy representing the Northern League party) who suggested that a bounty be placed on my head (he declared that he would like to put up “WANTED” posters with my picture on them), my family has received threatening letters and we have been victims of acts of vandalism
Not quite as bad as being insufficiently serious about the crucifix, but still pretty bad!
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:33 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Because now the topic is whether or not the image of a man being tortured to death is a turn-on for the gays.

/topic #104994 Interesting differences between the US and European legal regimes when it comes to religious iconography

griphus has changed topic to "Interesting differences between the US and European legal regime"

Shit.
posted by griphus at 2:34 PM on June 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


There may also the whole "thousand years of persecution of the Jews" aspect here, which gets more serious than simple annoyance that people are telling your kids ridiculous stories about some desert sun god. Jewish Italians are astoundingly closed lipped about their ethnic heritage, even if they're atheists today.

I missed this cute poem up thread, btw. Also, youtube has a trailer for the Cumming of Jizzus now.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:40 PM on June 27, 2011


Holy derail batman! Anyway: to get us back on track I'm going to get up on my soapbox and talk about the character of the court, and why I was not surprised that it made this decision.

I would urge people to read the concurrence of Judge Bonello - it perfectly and eloquently sums up the conservative (in the european sense) attitude of the court to decisions on contentious issues. Without offering a single precedent or legal argument he essentially acknowledges that the court is in the wrong on the principles of the issue as regard to the rights, but defers to the "stench of history" to justify the continual violation of rights.What a perfect turn of phrase this is.

This stench of history permeates all of the ECHR's judgements - it explains why it can offer powerful defences of freedom of speech one year, and accept a draconian bans on anything to do with the nazi's the next. Why the state displaying a cross in a school is acceptable, but a student wearing a burkha is not. Why, over a decade ago, bans on gay service in the military were rejected, but yet, in a human rights treaty that affirms the right to marriage - attempts to assert a right to gay marriage have fallen flat.

This was a court forged out of the ashes of World War Two, and it exists in a strange hinterland between politics and hard law. The good that it does, as the de-facto "supreme court" of many nations that would otherwise lack any connection to the rule of law, cannot be overstated. At the same time, its a constant reminder that the scars that run under the soil of europe are still strong, that we are a deeply divided continent with many problems and outrageous anachronisms. We cannot expect the quality of its decisions to evolve until the continent evolves along with it. The decisions of the court will become more radical, more progressive and more tolerant only as the underlying fabric of europe also makes that change.

(right - off the soapbox you pop young commentator)
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 2:49 PM on June 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


Aside from the LOLxtians, I find this case very interesting. It seems to set, or reinforce, a precedent that enforcing religion -- even the synbols of religion -- on a population is a violayion of human rights.

As there are European countries with state religions, I wonder how this might play out. I had daily chapelmin school in Bath, and wonder if this might now be considered to be a violation of my human rights.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:54 PM on June 27, 2011


[few comments removed - knock it off, thank you]
posted by jessamyn at 3:19 PM on June 27, 2011


Most Italians, religious or not, claim that the crucifix is a cultural symbol as well as a religious one.

We Americans are very fond of our classroom depictions of gallows, electric chairs and gas chambers, as well.
posted by mmrtnt at 3:47 PM on June 27, 2011


I think the fact that the Italian practice is not that public schools are allowed to display crucifixes but that they are compelled to display them is worth noting. It isn't just "we Italians have a culture of Christianity that has lasted for centuries that we should be free to celebrate that, even in our secular institutions." It's more like "Italy has a Christian culture--and don't you forget it!"
posted by layceepee at 4:04 PM on June 27, 2011


And what the hell is homoerotic about a crucifix?

Oh dearie dear. Somebody needs to get out more.
posted by Decani at 5:51 PM on June 27, 2011


We Americans are very fond of our classroom depictions of gallows, electric chairs and gas chambers, as well.

Um... is this sarcasm? Like, just on the wall, like a crucifix? Or in a specific class or something?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:42 PM on June 27, 2011


Oh dearie dear. Somebody needs to get out more.

hey decani, the thread is moving on...
posted by wilful at 6:50 PM on June 27, 2011


Pastabagel, quoting the court statement :
"The Court found that, while the crucifix was above all a religious symbol, there was no evidence before the Court that the display of such a symbol on classroom walls might have an influence on pupils."

If the crucifix has no influence on pupils, then what is the purpose of having it on classroom walls in the first place? Why not just take it down to begin with, and save everyone a lot of legal costs?

Can't have it both ways.
posted by joz at 6:54 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Astrozombie - you might be interested to see this, currently playing out in the High Court of Australia, regarding federal funding of school chaplains.
Some more links on the same issue, Google has many more.
posted by joz at 7:17 PM on June 27, 2011


Ahh, you Aussies don't know much about American Christianity. We're pretty strict about separation of Church & State, i.e. no crucifixes on school walls. We're very quick to invent loony bin sects & cults however, especially when they'll skirt the rules. It is for example perfectly fine displaying Jesus on the guillotine and telling em' the French killed him. There is actually usually some resistant to Jesus in the electric chair however because that suggests the Texans killed him.

I'd imagine some artist must've actually painted or sculpted Jesus in the Chair and similar, but I've never seen em'.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:24 PM on June 27, 2011


Ahh, you Aussies don't know much about American Christianity.

No, I don't. Which is why I asked. I have no idea what your post means, at all.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:08 PM on June 27, 2011


Yes, both mmrtnt's & my posts were pure sarcasm. And our crazies were vocally anti-France when the French refused to help us invade Iraq.

Yet, I didn't miss the mark by soo much, it appears a French artist has depicted Jesus dying in the Electric Chair.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:10 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


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