Spain defends school crucifix removal order
The government says the judge has the right to order the removal of crucifixes from a public school.26 November 2008
MADRID – Spain's Socialist government defended Tuesday a judge's order to remove crucifixes from the walls of classrooms in a state school, but ruled out extending the measure to other education establishments.
"The constitution says that Spain is secular and as a result schools should also be so," said Education Minister Mercedes Cabrera in an interview published in the conservative newspaper ABC.
She added that parents "have the right to demand that religious symbols be removed."
The minister said the government had no plans to force all public schools that still have crucifixes on their walls to remove them, saying this type of "initiative" should be decided by administrators at each establishment.
The spokesman for the ruling Socialists in parliament, Jose Antonio Alonso, said only that it would be "desirable" that religious symbols disappear from schools.
Earlier in November, Judge Alejandro Valentin complied with a 2005 request by a parent from a local secular association and ordered the Macias Picavea school in the northern city of Valladolid to "remove religious symbols from classrooms and public spaces".
It was the first time that a judge has made such a ruling.
The Vatican's daily Osservatore Romano hit out Monday at the ruling, saying in an opinion piece that it smacked of "anti-religious hatred".
Despite the provisions of Spain's 1978 constitution, which ensures the separation of Church and State, Catholic symbols remain in many schools, 30 years after the end of the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, who had made Roman Catholicism the official state religion.
Relations between the Roman Catholic Church and Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's government remain strained following liberal social reforms, including gay marriage and easier divorce.
The government argues the promotion of secular values is key to the modernisation of Spain, which has become more multicultural and undergone a liberal transformation in the three decades since the death of Franco.
[AFP / Expatica]