An Italian atheist group’s attempt to prevent the promotion of Christianity through the government may have backfired.
In 2009, the town of Mandas called for all public offices to display a crucifix. He didn’t say employees could display one if they wanted to. He said they had to, and there was a 500-Euro fine for anyone who didn’t obey the new law.
The Unione degli Atei e degli Agnostici Razionalisti (UAAR) filed a lawsuit against the mayor, and from that pressure alone, he rescinded his own rule. But UAAR wanted to prevent him (or other mayors) from doing the same thing again in the future, so they pursued a case at a higher court, Sardinia’s Regional Administrative Tribunal (TAR), hoping the establish a rule.
This week, TAR ruled against the atheists.
… the court held on Wednesday that there is no legal basis for overturning the mayor’s order, which effectively clears the way for crucifixes to be displayed in any public space in the town.
The court’s argument was that prohibiting mayors from calling for mandatory crucifix displays was a violation of religious freedom guaranteed by the European Court of Human Rights. That’s a weird argument, though, since atheists were fighting against the forced display of crucifixions, not demanding that no one be allowed to exercise their religious rights.
UAAR says they’re going to keep pushing this case up the chain until they get a more sensible decision.
The atheists’ union said it plans to challenge the Sardinian ruling, with an appeal to higher Italian courts and potentially even the European Court of Human Rights — arguing that the European panel’s early finding dealt only with schools and not other public spaces, such as courthouses and government buildings.
Their request is reasonable. Even religious people should be able to get on board with what UAAR wants. Free exercise of religion is better for everyone. Forcing Jesus on people has never worked.