Yesterday, the European court of human rights ruled that the display of crucifixes in Italian public school classrooms violates religious and education freedoms (story).
Spokesmen for the Italian government and the Church have, of course, made comments disparaging this ruling. Of course, these comments have been absurd and outrageous and have made it clear, yet again, that there are an awful lot of people in this world who just don’t “get it.”
Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi:
Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said the crucifix was a fundamental sign of the importance of religious values in Italian history and culture and was a symbol of unity and welcoming for all of humanity — not one of exclusion.
I would like to hear the Rev. Lombardi’s explanation for how a guy nailed to cross is a “symbol of unity and welcoming” for people who don’t believe that he died for our sins, let alone for people whose religions specifically forbid the creation of graven images. Black is white, war is peace, and a symbol that is sacred to only one world religion and actively hostile to many others is “a symbol of unity and welcoming for all of humanity.”
Does the Rev. Lombardi think that the primary symbol of the Roman Catholic church inspires feelings of “unity and welcoming” in people who who were victimized by said church numerous times over the past two millenia… the Crusades, the Inquisition, the blood libels, apathy and complicity during the Holocaust, the Catholic clergy sexual abuse scandal, to name just a few?
The Rev. Lombardi continues:
“Religion gives a precious contribution to the formation and moral growth of people, and it’s an essential component in our civilization,” he said in a statement. “It’s wrong and myopic to try to exclude it from education.”
Here, the reverend and I are in complete agreement. Religion is an essential component of civilization, and school curricula should absolutely include comprehensive coverage of world religions. However, that means studying them out of book and lesson plans, not putting one religion’s exclusive symbol on the wall of every classroom.
Italian Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini continues the run of cluelessness:
“In our country nobody wants to impose the Catholic religion, let alone with a crucifix,” Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini said. But she added that “it is not by eliminating the traditions of individual countries that a united Europe is built.”
This, of course, is another charming bit of 1984-speak. Dude, if you put a crucifix on the wall of every classroom, then you are in fact “imposing the Catholic religion.” And not all “traditions” are worth preserving. Oppressing and killing Jews has a long history in Italy as well. Should we bring that “tradition” back as well?
Finally, the Italian Bishop’s Conference has this to say:
“The multiple significance of the crucifix, which is not just a religious symbol but a cultural sign, has been either ignored or overlooked,” the Italian Bishop’s Conference said in a statement.
See what I mean? They just don’t get it. Whether it’s both a religious symbol and a cultural sign is completely and utterly irrelevant. As soon as you concede that it’s a religious symbol, you also concede that forcing students who don’t believe in what it symbolizes to sit in public-school classrooms beneath it every day is oppressive and discriminatory.
The interesting question is, do all of these seemingly clueless people actually believe what they are saying, or is it all a smokescreen to hide their real agenda, which is, in fact, to promote Catholicism as the state religion of Italy as much as they can get away with it.
I’ve mused on a similar point quite often. The escalator to one of the exits of the building where I work has a view of the ten-foot-tall crucifix on the church across the street. I often think about how odd it is that what looks to me like a sculpture of a fellow Jew being tortured to death, looks to others like a symbol of comfort.
Justice Scalia recently made a similar argument about a cross as a memorial for the dead, saying that “everyone” understands that it’s not meant to be religious. Apparently, he offended some Christians with that remark…
They’re either lying scum, or complete morons. Probably some combination. It’s obviously promotion of Christianity… if it were just “religion in general” they’d have a montage of religious symbols.
I agree with you Jik, if you put a big symbol of any religion up on the wall, you are actively supporting that religion, same as if they put a big “Coca-Cola” sign on the wall.
I think it’s possible that these people have deceived themselves (or been deceived by their priests) so completely that they really think their stupid holy symbol is viewed by everyone in the same light as they view it. They probably also know they are pushing Catholicism on the students, but of course they don’t think it’s wrong, since it’s their religion.