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A new international court ruling has found that a parent who was “offended” by a schoolroom display of a cross cannot demand that it be removed, a decision U.S. attorneys say will remove one possible reason for activist judges to attack symbols of Christianity in the United States.

WNDCrucifixes can be displayed in school classrooms across the European Union, the Court of Human Rights has ruled. The decision overturned a previous ruling that the crucifix could breach the rights of non-Catholic pupils.

The ruling from the European Court of Human Rights concerned a complaint raised by Soile Lautsi on behalf of herself and her two children who opposed the presence of a crucifix in school classrooms in the predominantly Catholic nation of Italy.

A lower court has banished thesymbols, but the verdict from the Grand Chamber of the international court concluded that the nation has the right to determine its own teaching atmosphere.

“In deciding to keep crucifixes in the classrooms of the State school attended by the first applicant’s children, the authorities acted within the limits of the margin of appreciation left to the respondent State in the context of its obligation to respect, in the exerciseof the functions it assumes in relation to education and teaching, the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions,” the ruling said.

“A loss in this case would have meant, in essence, that it would be illegal under the European Convention on Human Rights to have religious symbolsin any state institution anywhere in Europe,” explained Roger Kiska, of the U.S.-based Alliance Defense Fund. The international organization filed a brief as an intervenor in the case.

“That would have set a dangerous example for the rest of the world. For instance, lawsuits that seek to tear down religious symbols simply because one person says he or she has been ‘offended’ are very common in the U.S. In addition to the concerns directly related to this case, ADF wants to head off any opportunity for activists in the U.S. to cite foreign court decisions as patterns to follow. We will continue fighting that battle in all of the cases in which we are involved,” Kiska said.

The danger from a decision that went the other way was made clear in a statement from one of the two of judges who dissented:

In their conclusion, Judges Giorgio Malinverni and Zdravka Kalaydjieva stated, “We now live in a multicultural society, in which the effective protection of religious freedom and of the right to education requires strict State neutrality in State-schooled education as a fundamental feature of a democratic society…“The presence of crucifixes in schools is capable of infringing religious freedom and schoolchildren’s right to education to a greater degree than religious apparel that, for example, a teacher might wear, such as the Islamic headscarf,” the dissent continued.

Judge Giovanni Bonello, in a special concurrence with the majority, however, set the record straight:

“All the parents of all the 30 puupils in an Italian classroom enjoy equally the fundamenta lConvention right to have their children receive teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions, at least analogous to that of the Lautsi children,” he wrote. “The parents of one pupil want that to be ‘non-crucifix’ schooling, and the parents of the other 29, exercising their equally fundamental freedom of decision, want that schooling to be ‘crucifix’ schooling.

“No one has so far suggested any reason why the will of the parents of one pupil should prevail, and that of the parents of the other 29 pupils should founder. The parents of the 29 have the fundamental right, equivalent in force and commensurate in intensity, to have their children receive teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.” “The crucifix purge promoted by Ms. Lautsi would not in any way be a measure to ensure neutrality in theclassroom. It would be an imposition of the crucifix-hostile philosophy of the parents of one pupil,” he said.

Already in the U.S., people who claim being “offended” have demanded the removal of a seven-foot memorial cross honoring World War I veterans from the Mojave desert. When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it could stay, critics vandalized the site and removed the cross themselves.

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