November 11, 2009
Centers for Inquiry across Europe Applaud the European Court of Human Rights for Decision to Ban Crosses in Italian Public Schools
We, secular humanists in Europe and members and affiliates of the Center for Inquiry/Transnational (CFI), welcome the European Court of Human Rights
decision regarding the removal of religious symbols in public schools in Italy.
We strongly support its efforts to protect the human rights of children not to have religious dogma forced upon them anywhere in Europe. We agree with the court that the aim of public school education is "to foster critical thinking."
We urge that the Council of Europe take action to guarantee the freedom of children as set forth in the Convention of the Rights of the Child. Its Preamble states that "the child should be fully prepared to live an individual life in society, and brought up in the spirit of peace, dignity, tolerance, freedom, equality and solidarity." Article 29 of the Convention further states that:
The Parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to:
(a) The development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential;
(b) The development of respect for human rights and fundamental
freedoms, and for the principles enshrined in the Charter of the
(d) The preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society,
in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes,
and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups
and persons of indigenous origin;
(e) The development of respect for the natural environment.
As members and affiliates of CFI, we support freedom of religion; parents should be able choose to send their children to private religious schools at their own expense, provided these schools meet minimal educational standards. However, we oppose state funding of religious schools as a violation of freedom of religion and the separation of religion and government. CFI calls for an end to public support of religious education.
We congratulate the European Court of Human Rights on making a substantial breakthrough with respect to the separation of State and Church in Europe by denouncing the clericalization of governments and the infringement of religious freedom in public schools.
There is no reasonable alternative to secularism as the basis for an effective and responsible democratic government. The Center for Inquiry and its European branches promote the separation of state and religion and a secular legal and educational system as fundamental democratic principles.
Signed by The Center for Inquiry:
Dr. Paul Kurtz
, Founder and Chairman Emeritus
Dr. Ronald A. Lindsay
, President and CEO
Norm R. Allen, Jr
., Director of African Americans for Humanism, Co-Director of International Programming
Derek C. Araujo, Esq
., Vice President and General Counsel, Co-Director of International Programming
Centers for Inquiry/Europe:
Dr. Gabriel Andreescu, Chair
J. Beth Ciesielski, Executive Director
Fundatia Centrul pentru Constiinta Critica
Romanian Branch of Center for Inquiry
Dr. Andrzej Dominiczak
Floris van den Berg, Annemarieke Otten, and Rob Thielman
CFI – Netherlands and the Low Countries
Dr. Stephen Law
Luis Alfonso Gamez