Italy’s League Party Proposes Law Requiring Crucifixes in All Public Buildings

ROME, ITALY - FEBRUARY 24: Crucifixes are displayed for sale near Vatican City on February 24, 2013 in Rome, Italy. The Pontiff will hold his last weekly public audience on February 27, 2013 before he retires the following day. Pope Benedict XVI has been the leader of the Catholic Church …
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty

The League party of Matteo Salvini has introduced a bill in the Italian parliament requiring crucifixes in all public buildings, including train stations, airports, universities, embassies, and — significantly — ports, Italian media reported this week.

“The removal of the religious symbols that characterize our community means challenging the principles on which our identity is based,” the bill states. “Respecting minorities does not mean renouncing the symbols of our history, culture and tradition.”

The bill, titled “Dispositions concerning the display of the crucifix in schools and in offices of public administration,” proposes crucifixes be visibly hung prominently in public places. Repeated polemics concerning the presence of the crucifix in Italian classrooms “have deeply wounded the not only the religious meaning of the crucifix, but also and above all its universal value as a symbol of civilization and Christian culture, in its historical roots, independent of a specific religious confession,” it reads.

It would be an offense to the history and tradition of the Italian people, the bill further asserts, if the vaunted secularism of the republican constitution were “misinterpreted in the sense of introducing a Jacobin obligation to remove the crucifix. On the contrary, it remains for thousands of citizens, families, and workers the symbol of a history shared by an entire people.”

Italian news outlets were quick to underscore the inclusion of “ports” in the list of public places that should expose a crucifix, proposing that Interior Minister Matteo Salvini intends to send a message to all who arrive, especially migrants, that Italian society is built on a Christian culture and worldview.

The placement of crucifixes in public buildings, especially in school classrooms, has been a delicate issue in Italy for years. The Italian government won its fight for crosses in Italian classrooms in Strasbourg in 2014, when the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) acquitted Italy of the allegation of human rights violations for exposing the Christian symbol.

The current bill was reportedly filed in Parliament on March 26, shortly after the new government took office, but only became public this week. It now awaits scheduling for discussion in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate.

The proposed law stipulates that “anyone who out of hatred removes the emblem of the cross or crucifix from the public office where it is exposed or subjects it to contempt” will be fined between 500 and 1000 euros.

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