Court rules against bid to remove crucifix

Italian state-run schools are fully entitled to hang crucifixes in their classrooms, an Italian high court ruled on Wednesday, thus rejecting a legal challenge raised by a non-Christian.

Soile Lautsi, an Italian citizen of Finnish origins whose two children frequent a school in the Veneto region, had argued that the crucifix on display there violates the principle that the state should be neutral when it comes to religious matters.

But Italy's Constitutional Court effectively rejected the challenge by arguing that the plaintiff was not entitled to raise the issue in court.

The representation of the cross on which Jesus died has become the subject of a heated debate in Italy in recent years as Muslim groups and non-Christians seek its removal from state schools.

A judge in central Italy caused outrage last year by ruling in favour of a radical Muslim leader and ordering that a crucifix be removed from the classroom of the school where his children study.

The judge's verdict was eventually overruled amid widespread protests in the overwhelmingly Catholic country.

Although church and state are officially separated in Italy, a 1923 regulation issued during Benito Mussolini's Fascist rule and never repealed states that a symbol of the crucifix should hang in every classroom and courtroom in the country.