In December 2009, a case brought before the European Court of Human Rights objecting to the display of crucifixes in public school classrooms in Italy. The first ruling in December 2009 prohibited the crucifixes. The current ruling overturned the previous one by 15-2 pending another hearing.
Professor Joseph Weiler of New York University School of Law and Honorary Professor at London University, represented, pro bono, the Governments of Armenia, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Lithuania, Malta, The Russian Federation and San Marino in the case of Lautsi vs Italy. Weiler expressed optimism and commented on the case in a press release:
Overturning the decision of the Chamber represents a rejection of a ‘One Size Fits All’ Europe and a vindication of its pluralist tradition in which equal dignity is accorded to the constitutional choices of a France and a Britain, an Italy and a Sweden and the other myriad formulae for recognizing religious symbols in the public space. Europe is special in that it guarantees at the private level both freedom of religion and freedom from religion, but does not force its various Peoples to disown in its public spaces what for many is an important part of the history and identity of their States, a part recognized even by those who do not share the same religion or any religion at all. It is this special combination of private and public liberties, reflecting a particular spirit of tolerance, which explains how in countries such as, say, Britain or Denmark to give but two examples, where there is an Established State Church no less – Anglican and Lutheran respectively – Catholics, Jews, Muslims and, of course, the many citizens who profess no religious faith, can be entirely ‘at home,’ play a full role in public life including the holding of the highest office, and feel it is ‘their country’ no less than anyone else. It is an important model for the world of which Europe can be justly proud.