Yesterday the Italian judge Luigi Tosti was officially discharged for refusing to serve in a courtroom adorned with the crucifix. The crucifix is a mandatory presence in all Italian public offices, classrooms, courtrooms and police stations. If you are a non-Catholic, non-believer or believer with respect for separation of church and state, well…you’re out of luck.
Tosti “had repeadedly and in vain called for the removal of the crucifix from the courtrooms” – according to the UAAR’s website – “or, instead, that all other religious symbols, and in particular the Jewish menorah, be displayed as well.” We can now see what that reasonable request got him.
What sickens me is that the Italian government is incapable of abiding by its own secular constitution. What’s worse is when they attempt to throw the crucifix at us as if it were itself the very symbol of the secular nature of the state. It is incessantly referred to as neutral, silent, universal. A gathering place for Jew and Gentile, believer and non-believer. The most ecumenical goddamn thing you ever saw. How can you not just love it?
What is neutral about the Inquisition? What is silent about the Crusades? What is universal about any religious confession?
They like to use those words because they are abuzz with secular meaning. It’s a bit rich, though, coming from men like Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone and Joseph Ratzinger, and not unlike Mahmoud Ahmadinejad prattling on about “human rights” at the UN. But anyone can see that it’s a pack of lies; the crucifix is as divisive a symbol as ever humanity has devised.
But this isn’t about the sordid history of the crucifix as symbol of religious might and theocratic muscle; it’s about freedom from religion. It’s about the neutrality of the state in religious affairs.
This week Italy celebrates its 150th birthday; it was born in opposition to that very same august religious institution – the Catholic Church – that it kneels before today. Three days from now, on March 18, the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg will give its final decision as to whether the public display of the crucifix is unconstitutional. You can be sure that, no matter what, not a single crucifix will come down. If the Vatican is indeed a sinking ship, Italy has vowed to go down with it, crucifix in hand.
This is a mischievous pact. There is no religious equality here, no breathing room from state-sponsored Roman Catholicism. Not even a judge is safe from the maw of this weasel-theocracy, the kind without even the courage to call itself one. Given the choice between safeguarding the constitutional rights of its citizens and kowtowing to the gluttonous bishops, Italy consistently chooses the latter. What a disgrace.