Displaying crucifixes in Italy's public schools does not violate anyone's religious freedom, the European court in Strasburg ruled today, in a judgement that will please the country's government and public opinion.
Ruling that there was no evidence that a crucifix hung in a classroom would influence pupils, the ECHR judgement overturns the famous November 2009 judgement in favour of a Finnish-born Italian woman. Sole Lautsi, a nonbeliever who had objected to her child having to look at crosses in a school near Venice. For background, see my piece here yesterday.
The Vatican welcomed the decision. Its spokesman Federico Lombardi called it "an important and historic ruling".
But in another way, the ruling is a little worrying. The final decision by the court's Grand Chamber said it found no evidence "that the display of such a symbol on classroom walls might have an influence on pupils".
That's quite a long way from the "scandal" of the Cross described by St Paul.
But it also shows that secularization, which some Christians regard as a kind of unstoppable behemoth, is not inevitable, and that in the long-running battles in Europe over the co-existence of belief and non-belief -- a much more pressing question than the co-existence of Christianity and Islam -- there will be reverses for the secularists.