Of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe, 21 have voiced objection to the European Court of Human Rights decision on the question of crucifixes in schools.

The affair has impassioned Italy for several years. Mrs Soile Lautsi had asked the administration of her children’s local school to remove the crucifixes from their classrooms. When the request was refused she took legal action. In 2005, the Italian Administrative Tribunal ruled against her on the grounds that “the crucifix is the symbol of both Italian history and Italian culture and, in consequence, of Italian identity, and the symbol of the principles of equality, liberty and tolerance as well as of the secularity of the State.”

However, on 3 November 2009, the Court at Strasbourg condemned this judgement, affirming that: “the compulsory display of the symbol of a faith during the performance of a public service, particularly in classrooms, limits the right of parents to educate their children according to their beliefs as well as the right of children being educated to believe or not to believe.”

Taking issue with this decision, Armenia, Greece, Lithuania, Malta, Monaco, Romania, the Russian Federation and San Marino lodged an objection with the Court, which heard their case on 30 June 2010. Subsequent to the hearing, Albania, Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Macedonia (FYSM), Moldova, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine, added their support to the objection.

The reason for this sudden executive revolt against the Court becomes clear in light of the alliance concluded last May between the metropolitan Hilarion (in charge of external relations of the Orthodox patriarchate of Moscow) on behalf of the patriarch Cyril I, and Pope Benedict XVI. The separate Catholic and Orthodox churches decided to join forces against the secularization of European societies.

Translated from French by Carl Freeman.