In the cause Lautsi v. Italy, a case that concerned the presence of the crucifix or of other religious symbols in Schools, the European Court of Human Rights decided in favour of the Italian Government since it does not violate the right for education.
In 2009, two children of an atheist mother who studied in a public school, dispute legally this practice of the state that was implemented since 1924, estimating that the presence of the crucifix in the public schools violated right of the parents to secure their children’s right for an education that was according to their religious or philosophical beliefs, a right that she assumed was guaranteed by the European Convention of Human Rights.
After her case was dismissed in the Italian Courts, she appealed to the ECHR and on the 3rd of November 2009 the Small Chamber consisted of seven judges decided that indeed there was a violation of Human Rights of Ms Lautsi. This decision of the Small Chamber was afterwards overruled by the Grand Chamber on the 18th of March 2011 with an appeal that the Italian Government made and the Grand Chamber which reached a verdict by 15 votes to 2 in favour of the Italian Government.
The court decided that: (a) the crucifix is a religious symbol, (b) that atheist belief is a religious belief and has the right to be protected, (c) public schools should be neutral to religious, but did not accept that the presence of the cross or other religious symbols in the classes suggest a kind of an influence to the students, clarifying at the same time that the decision for the usage of religious symbols in the school relies to the Member States and that these is not a form of catechises.
Under this sceptic it is clarified that the States Members of the European Council have the obligation to respect, during the educational procedure, the religious and philosophical beliefs of the parents, but in this case the presence of the crucifix to the schools does not go against to the right of the parents to raise up their children according to their religious and philosophical convictions.
The Court also declared that the habit of the Italian Government to hang the crucifix does not violate the religious neutrality of the schools, but it is an acceptable expression of the dominating Christian cultural identity.
The European Court of Human Rights decided that Italy should grand to its Schools a «breathing space» on deciding spontaneous how and when they will express their Christian tradition, while at the same time the European States are deeply confused if they should or not expose in public religious symbols.