The European Court of Human Rights has overturned a 2009 ruling that had attempted to ban crucifixes in public classrooms because they might be disturbing to non-Christian students.
The saga began when a mother near Venice complained about the presence of crucifixes in her children's classrooms. She lobbied to have them removed, eventually taking her case to European courts. In 2009, the courts agreed stating that the crucifixes impaired "the right of children to freedom of religion and thought."
Though Catholicism has not been an official state religion since the 1980s, the ruling prompted an outcry in Italy. The Italian government launched and lead a repeal effort to have the ruling rescinded. Joined by Lithuania, Italy claimed that the religious symbol was in no way harmful to non-Catholic students.
On Friday, the Italian government won the fight for the continued presence of crucifixes in state schools. A higher court found no evidence “that the display of such a symbol on classroom walls might have an influence on pupils.”
The Italian government and the Vatican have both hailed the ruling as historic, celebrating the repeal as a victory for the freedom of religious expression.