March 24, 2011
Crucifixes in Italian, German, and U.S. State Classrooms
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the presence of crucifixes in Italian state schools does not violate the freedom of religion protected by the Charter. The decision essentailly defers to the decisions that signatory countries make in this area. So the decision of the German high court that the display of crucifixes in German public schools constitutes a violation of the German Constitution is undisturbed. For a link to the decision and a brief favorable discussion, see here.
Under current law the U.S. approach folllows neither the ECHR nor the German approach. Crucifixes are not permitted in American public school classrooms (so the U.S. approach contradicts the ECHR), but the basis in the U.S. is the Establishment Clause; the approach in Germany is closer to our Free Exercise clause. Students may not be required to study "under the cross" if they complain. But crosses are permitted all over Bavaria without violation of German law.
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