For many centuries, virtually the only education in Italy was provided by the Church, its religious orders and organisations – and very few besides. Many, if not most schools, colleges, universities and other institutes of learning in Italy had been founded, funded, or run by the Church, its members or its offshoots. The milestones of history turned education and Christianity into almost interchangeable notions, and because of this, the age-old presence of the crucifix in Italian schools should come as no shock or surprise. In fact, its absence would have come as a surprise and a shock.

Now, a court in a glass box a thousand kilometres away has been engaged to veto overnight what has survived countless generations. The Court has been asked to be an accomplice in a major act of cultural vandalism. I believe William Faulkner went to the core of the issue: the past is never dead. In fact it is not even past.

Millions of Italian children have, over the centuries, been exposed to the crucifix in schools. This has neither turned Italy into a confessional State, nor the Italians into citizens of a theocracy. The applicants have failed to unfurl before the Court any evidence at all that those exposed to the crucifix forfeited in any way their complete freedom to manifest their individual and personal religious belief, or their right to repudiate any religion.

The presence of a crucifix in a schoolroom does not seem to have hindered any Italian in his or her liberty to believe or to disbelieve, to embrace atheism, agnosticism, anti-clericalism, secularism, materialism, relativism, or doctrinaire irreligion, to recant, apostatise, or to embrace whatever creed or “heresy” of their choice they find sufficiently appealing, with the same vigour and gusto others freely embrace a Christian faith.

Cf. the full text of Lautsi vs Italy – The presence of the Crusifix in the classroom.