Sunday, June 27, 2010

Lautsi ("The Crucifix Case")

Antoine-Augustin Préault (1809- 1879)
Wood, height 160 cm
Saint-Gervais and Saint-Protais Church, Paris

The Council of Europe has 47 member states with some 800 million citizens. It is distinct from the European Union (EU)

Council of Europe member states are committed not only to effectively execute the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights ("ECHR") but also its interim measures in connection to specific cases.

For the first time in the history of the ECHR, ten member States are simultaneously intervening as ‘third party’ in one single case.

The case at stake is the Lautsi case - also known as the “crucifix case” - which will go before the Grand Chamber of the ECHR on June 30th.

In addition to the ten member states, several other States took positions against the November 3rd, 2009 decision, even publicly such as Austria and Poland which both made political statements on November 19th and December 3rd 2009 respectively

In Lautsi, the Court ruled that the presence of the crucifix in classrooms is “contrary to parents’ right to educate their children in line with their convictions and to childrens’ right to freedom of religion” because the Italian pupils would feel “educated in a school environment bearing the stamp of a given religion.”

By intervening, the States are explaining that the Court has superseded itself in the creation of rights. Those States explained that it can not be found in the Convention that there are any duties to secularise education in Europe. In fact, the Convention says nothing on the nature of the relationship between the State and the church.

"Laïcité” or secularization is not part of the Convention.

A large proportion of the member States were confessional when they drafted and signed the Convention and still are.

According to the “traditional” case law of the Court, each State is free to organize its relationships with the religions of its county and even to grant privileges to the religion of the majority of its population. No obligation to secularize public schools, even implicit, can found in the Convention.

If the decision in Lautsi is upheld by the Full Court, education in Europe will have to change radically and become secularised. Further there will be major changes in the relationship betwen Church and State in most nation members1 constitutions.

BTW the "interveners" are Armenia; Bulgaria; Cyprus; Greece; Lithuania; Malta; Monaco; San-Marino; Romania; and The Russian Federation.

Italy is of course appealing the lower Court decision.

Austria and Poland have indicated their opposition publicly.

However the major states such as Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Netherlands, have remained strangely quiet.

It is difficult to understand why other Catholic countries such as the Republic of Ireland, Portugal, Luxembourg, Hungary are keeping quiet.