Religious repression in Italy

  • post Type / Campaigns
  • Date / 2 February 2006

Updated! Judge Luigi Tosti, of Camerino, Italy, has been sentenced to seven months in jail for refusing to work in a courtroom in which a crucifix is displayed. Under Italian law, a crucifix must be erected in every courtroom, classroom and hospital room. The judge has appealed, and does not have to serve the sentence until the appeals process has been exhausted.

The judge was convicted for failing to carry out his official duties. “I was convicted because I am a minor-league citizen compared to Catholics,” he said.

In a separate case, Italian Muslims Union president Adel Smith was sentenced to eight months in prison for throwing a crucifix out of the window of an hospital on 12 January in L’Aquila, Italy. He was charged with contempt of Catholic religion. Smith went to the hospital to visit his mother. He requested the removal of the crucifix, but when the medical authorities refused, he threw it out of the window. His lawyer said that his client was discriminated because he was put on trial in a courtroom without a crucifix.

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Although the first impression at the end of the meeting of the disciplinary section of the Consiglio Superiore Della Magistratura (CSM) gave hope that the CSM would not suspend Judge Tosti, within a few hours the news came that he had in fact been suspended.

Having been sentenced to seven months in prison and one year of prohibition from visiting public offices on November 18, 2005, he appeared before the disciplinary section of the CSM on January 13, 2006 at the request of the prosecuting attorney of the supreme court of appeal.

He has appealed to the Aquila Court of Appeal against the decision of the lower court. He has just announced that he intends to take his appeal to the European Court of Justice.

This is not an isolated instance of religious repression: debate raged in Italy in 2003 about the obligatory presence of crucifixes in public school classrooms; and another controversy surrounds the case of the president of the Muslim union, who threw a crucifix out of a window at a public hospital when the hospital refused to remove it. The general question for Italy is the imposition of the crucifix in all public places (schools, hospital, courts etc), provided for by laws or regulations dating back to the period of fascist rule, never challenged even by the Socialists when they renegotiated the concordat with the Roman Catholic church, and to which the pope Benedict XVI drew attention last August.

Summary (and decoding) of the conclusions presented on 13 January, 2006 by Judge Luigi Tosti in front of the disciplinary section of the CSM

Judge Luigi Tosti considers that the imposition of crucifixes in courtrooms is a serious transgression by the State of the Italian constitution, a transgression that seriously damages its constitutional laws and assaults its dignity. He does not intend to restrict his resistance and has gone on strike for as long as the presence of a religious symbol is imposed upon him.

It was suggested to him by the representatives of the State that as a magistrate (civil servant) its statutes applied to him and that he should resign if he could not accept sitting under the conditions imposed upon him, as with any Italian Judge. He completely refuses to consider such a resignation, considering that if the State is so sure of its position then it is for him to correct it.

He intends to oppose the order for his suspension, while taking advantage of the constitutional laws and contradictions in them that imprison the Italian State.

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