Italian judge convicted for shunning courtrooms with crosses

.- An Italian judge campaigning about crosses being placed in public buildings has been convicted for the third time for refusing to enter courtrooms unless their crucifixes were removed, ANSA reports.

A court in the central Italian city of L’Aquila gave Judge Luigi Tosti, 59, a suspended one-year jail term and banned him from holding public office for a year.

Judge Tosti is currently serving the second of two similar bans for refusing to perform his judicial duties in another town. 

On Thursday, Judge Tosti refused to take part in court proceedings until the cross in the courtroom was taken down and “the secular nature of the assembly restored.”

According to ANSA, his lawyer filed an appeal claiming that “that one-meter by half-meter object, in itself, invalidates the hearing.”

“That doesn't mean offending Christians. But removing the crucifix means removing a privilege so that places of law can become truly secular and neutral,” the lawyer said.

In February 2006 the Supreme Court of Magistrates, the Italian judiciary’s governing body, removed Judge Tosti from his post and cut off his pay because of his “unjustifiable behavior.”

Crucifixes are not mandatory but are customary in Italy’s public buildings.  Though Catholicism is not Italy’s state religion, local bodies decide whether crosses should be placed in the courthouse and other public buildings, such as schools.

In April 2004, Judge Tosti proposed to place symbols of his Jewish faith, such as a menorah, in his Camerino court.  He changed his mind after the Union of Italian Muslims demonstrated their support for the initiative.

The judge has argued that since the Italian constitution gives equal status to all religions, judges and lawyers can refuse to perform their duties under the symbol of the cross.

The Constitutional Court in December 2004 ruled that crosses could stay in courts and classrooms. 

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