Rome, Italy, Oct 27, 2003 / 22:00 pm
The Italian government and the Bishops Conference of Italy protested the decision of Judge Mario Montanaro, who ordered the crucifix be removed within a month.
Montanaro ruled in favor of Adel Smith, a prominent Muslim leader in the country whose children attend a public school in Ofena, after school authorities refused to take the crucifix down since it represents the faith of the vast majority of students.
Two years ago Smith had asked school officials to remove the cross, and after they refused he posted a sign on one of the school’s walls that read, “Allah is great.” The sign was promptly taken down.
This year, Smith demanded a “surah”—a principal teaching from the Koran—be posted on the wall. Officials denied his request, at which point Smith took his case to court to demand the removal of the crucifix, bringing a suit before the Ministry of Education as well that could result in the order be extended to the rest of the county’s public schools.
The controversial decision of Judge Montanaro argued the presence of the crucifix in classrooms “communicates an implicit adherence to values which do not really reflect the common heritage of all citizens,” despite the fact most of Italy is Catholic.
The Minister of Justice, Roberto Castelli, has announced he will investigate the decision to determine if it violates current laws on the books, and if so, he will impose disciplinary sanctions against Judge Montanaro.