Spain takes first step to banning crucifixes in schools

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Spain is following a ruling by a European Court of Human Rights against displaying the Christian symbol as it violates children’s right to freedom of religion.

Madrid – Spain has taken the first step towards banning crucifixes in schools in the wake of a European Court of Human Rights judgment against Italy which has annoyed Catholics in particular.

A Spanish parliamentary commission approved late Wednesday by 20 votes to 16 a motion calling on Madrid to implement November's ruling by the Strasbourg court.

The motion was submitted by the small left-wing Catalan ERC party and backed by the ruling Socialists among others, while the conservative opposition Popular Party voted against.

Ruling on a case brought by an Italian mother, Soile Lautsi, the ECHR found that the right of parents to educate their children according to their own beliefs was being breached.

Displaying the Christian symbol also violated children's right to freedom of religion, the court said.

The verdict prompted anger in fiercely Catholic Italy, where an opinion poll showed 84 percent of the public was in favour of crucifixes in schools, and was condemned by the Vatican.

The Italian government said it would appeal against the court's decision.

The Spanish government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is already at odds with the Roman Catholic on such subjects as gay rights and liberalising abortion.

In 2008 a court in the northern city of Valladolid ordered a state school to remove religious symbols from classrooms on a complaint from a parent, in line with the country's secular constitution.

Meanwhile in deeply Catholic Poland legislators on Thursday took a swipe at the EHCR, saying they were "worried" by "decisions which infringe upon freedom of religion, disregard laws and the feelings of believers and upset social calm".

The motion, which is not legally binding, was passed by a majority of 357 deputies against 40 opposed and five abstentions in Poland's 460-seat lower house.

Polish legislators also called on other European parliaments to "reflect upon ways to protect freedom of belief".

Bishops in Poland, where some 90 percent of the country's 38 million citizens declare themselves Roman Catholic, have also slammed the ECHR verdict, although the post-communist left welcomed it.

AFP / Expatica

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