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State Neutrality and the Limits of Religious Symbolism

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Chapter Summary

In this chapter, the author analyzes the Lautsi case from the perspective of state neutrality. It is generally acknowledged in legal and political philosophy that contemporary constitutional democracies cannot be formally linked to some religious confession, except in a vestigial and largely symbolic sense. The author also analyzes whether the wish to hold on to such a religiously inspired tradition is consistent with the idea of state neutrality, a central value of contemporary constitutional democratic states. The chapter reviews the arguments that were employed when the case was before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). It explains the obligatory crucifix in terms of state neutrality. The question whether the obligatory display of crucifixes in Italian public schools can be justified is briefly discussed in this chapter.

Keywords:European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR); Italian public schools; Lautsi; obligatory crucifix; religious symbolism; state neutrality



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