On 23/10/03 the Tribunale Civile (a first instance tribunal for civil law matters)
of L’Aquila has ordered the headmaster of a primary school in Ofena to
remove the crucifix from the wall of the classroom used by two Muslim pupils.
The decision followed a two-year dispute between the father of the two pupils
(the President of the Italian Muslim Union) and the school. Following the father’s
initial complaints, the headmaster agreed to remove the crucifix in their classroom.
However, this lead to an uprising of the other parents and the crucifix was
reinstated. The father then asked the school to display the Koran Sura n.112
which states “There is no God but Allah”, but the Sura was immediately
removed by the other parents. The presence of the crucifix in schools and public
buildings is provided for by two Royal Decrees of 1924 and of 1928, which were
reconfirmed in 1984 when the agreement between the Catholic Church and the
Italian State was revised. This judgment has generated a very heated political
and legal debate. The parties of the ruling coalition have been incensed by
the judge’s assertion that “the crucifix is no longer part of the
Italian common heritage”. Parents at the school have already declared
that they will openly defy the judgment. From a legal perspective the decision
has been severely criticised because the judge disapplied the existing legislation
of his own motion by claiming that it contrasted with the pluralism guaranteed
by the Italian Constitution. However, in the event of an alleged tension between
a law and a constitutional norm, ordinary judges do not have the authority
to disapply the law in question, but must instead request a preliminary ruling
by the Constitutional Court. An appeal against the decision is expected.