Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Italians indignant at Court's attempt to ban crucifixes from schools

The European Court of Human Rights ruled today that Italian schools should remove crucifixes from classrooms, sparking uproar in Italy, where such icons are embedded in the national psyche.
The court ruling, which Italy said it would appeal, said crucifixes on school walls, a common sight that is part of every Italian's life, could disturb children who were not Christians. Italy has been in the throes of national debate on how to deal with a growing population of immigrants, mostly Muslims, and the court sentence is likely to become another battle cry for the centre-right government's policy to restrict newcomers. (Source)

In case you haven't been following European politics, this is just the latest intrusion of the "European government" into the internal affairs of individual member countries.  

As an economist, I support some of the initiatives that the European Union (EU) has brought.  I'm totally in favour of free trade and a common market.  I also can see the advantages of a monetary union and some harmonization of various economic and financial policies.  Such measures promote economic efficiency, facilitate capital and labour mobility (i.e. job opportunities) and lead to a general increase in living standards.  That was the original purpose of the EU.  

However, like any institution that acquires power and influence, it is easily hijacked by those common folks that suffer from the chronic condition called "Original Sin."  Over time, the EU has sought to expand it's reach and impose liberal policies on all member countries.  The biggest problem among the EU's intrusions is the pressure that it applies on all member countries to legalize abortion.  

The EU has its own laws and its own court to rule on them.  Italy is now facing the wrath of these liberals who want Christianity booted out.  It's abominable.

Fortunately, the Italians are not taking this lying down.  There has been an almost universal denunciation of the ruling, which the Italian government intends to appeal.  Good luck with that.  To get at the root of the problem, member countries should curtail the EU's powers and limit them to economic issues, as was originally intended.

It's not surprising that Christians are outraged by the ruling.  But is comforting to see that even more secular politicians are up in arms, recognizing the important place of Catholicism in the history and identity of Italy.  For example:

Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini said crucifixes on the walls of tens of thousands of classrooms “does not mean adherence to Catholicism” but are a symbol of Italy's heritage.  “The history of Italy is marked by symbols and if we erase symbols we erase part of ourselves,” Ms. Gelmini said.

I respect that position.  Nobody is forced to be Catholic, but they must acknowledge the reality that Catholicism has flavoured so much of Italy's history for centuries.  Even the opposition parties joined in the condemnation of the ruling:  

Pierferdinando Casini of the opposition Union of Christian Democrats party said the ruling showed that European institutions were “spineless,” noting the failure to mention the continent's Christian roots in Europe's constitution.

Do you notice the radical contrast between how Italians reacted to this ruling and the apathy of Canadians towards their religious heritage? A few years ago, when the courts were overturning marriage laws in this country, Canadians couldn't be bothered to pay attention.  They were too busy watching hockey, I guess. The way things are going, polygamy will also be the law of the land within a decade, tops.

Canadians have rolled over and given up on protecting their Christian roots. They don't care. The few politicians who speak up on these issues are marginalized as scary "fundamentalists" who have some "hidden agenda."  True to the stereotypes, Canadians are almost embarrassed about their Christian roots and feel obliged to apologize to immigrants for our customs. 

We need not be embarrassed.  We should be proud of our Christian heritage.  It has helped us become one of the most civilized countries in the world, where human rights are upheld and valued. It has helped us be a generous nation that has a positive reputation among other nations.

If only we could wake up and realize this, as the Italians have done.