Cultural Revolutions

Keeping History

Ever since Hugo Black succeeded in incorporating his anti-religious prejudices and Thomas Jefferson’s “Wall of Separation” into Supreme Court jurisprudence, Americans have known how a story like this is supposed to end: A parent who comes into a community objects to expressions of that community’s religious traditions in its schools.  There is no indication that other parents share her objections or that these traditions do any harm.  Nonetheless, the courts intervene and order that those traditions no longer be expressed in the schools.  Thus is the tyranny of the minority exercised through the agency of the courts, which have played an indispensable role in subverting traditional values.

But this story just turned out differently in Europe.  In 2006, Soile Lautsi, an ungrateful Finnish immigrant to Italy, decided that Italy was too Italian for her tastes.  So she sued to have the crucifixes removed from her children’s school, contending that the presence of crucifixes in Italian public schools violated Article 9 of the European Convention, which guarantees freedom of religion, and also that their presence violated the state’s supposed duty to remain “neutral” in matters of religion.  In 2009, a lower E.U. court agreed with the ungrateful immigrant, ruling that the presence of crucifixes in Italian classrooms was “emotionally disturbing for pupils of non-Christian religions...

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