Thursday, February 26, 2009

kudos judge!!

Anti- cross judge cleared

''It's either me in the courtroom, or crosses''.

Anti- cross judge cleared Luigi Tosti vows to continue battle

(ANSA) - L'Aquila, February 17 - An Italian judge campaigning against the presence of crosses in public buildings on Tuesday got a jail conviction quashed for refusing to enter courtrooms unless crucifixes were removed.

Italy's supreme court overturned judge Luigi Tosti's May 2007 seven-month sentence for refusing to carry out his official duties.

Tosti called the sentence ''an important one'' and vowed to carry on his battle.

''It's either me in the courtroom, or crosses''.

The court prosecutor had argued for leniency, saying that since Tosti was replaced by another judge, he should get a new trial on the minor charge of disrupting judicial activity.

But the Cassation Court judges went further and issued a full acquittal, saying that ''no crime was committed''. Tuesday's hearing took place with no crosses in the room.

Tosti, 60, has already had one ban and is currently serving another for refusing to sit in a courtroom in the Marche town of Camerino.

He has repeatedly refused to take part in proceedings unless the cross in the courtroom was taken down and ''the secular nature of the assembly restored''.

The Italian judiciary's self-governing body, the Supreme Council of Magistrates, removed Tosti from his post in February 2006 and cut off his pay because of his ''unjustifiable behaviour''.

The decision, which reignited debate on crucifixes in public buildings, came after Tosti was convicted by a criminal court a month before.

SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE AT STAKE, JUDGE SAYS.

Crucifixes are not mandatory but customary in Italy's public buildings.

Catholicism is not Italy's state religion and the separation of Church and State is set down by the postwar Constitution and mandated by a 1984 Concordat that ended most of the Catholic Church's privileges.

In practice, with Catholicism being such a part of Italy's cultural identity, local bodies decide whether they want crosses in the courthouse.

Similar arrangements are in place in other public buildings - most notably schools, where there have been a raft of polemics.

Judge Tosti first made headlines in April 2004 when he threatened to place symbols of his own Jewish faith, like the menorah candle-holder, in his Camerino court.

He later changed his mind after the Union of Italian Muslims (UMI) went to Camerino to demonstrate their support for his initiative.

The UMI is headed by Adel Smith who for some time has been in the public spotlight for his campaign to have crosses removed from schools and hospitals.

In 2003 Smith won a court order for the removal of crosses at the school his children attended. The order was later reversed after a nationwide protest.

Judge Tosti insists that defendants have the constitutional right to refuse to be tried under the symbol of the cross.

The Constitution, he says, establishes the separation of Church and State and gives equal status to all religions.

This means that judges and lawyers can refuse to perform their duties under the symbol of the cross which would violate a defendant's right to a fair trial and counsel, he argues.

However, the Constitutional Court ruled in December 2004 that crosses should stay in courts and classrooms.

The Court did not give a juridical explanation for its ruling, and many felt it had washed its hands of a political hot potato.

If it had upheld the separation of Church and State, the high court would have sparked outraged reactions from conservatives who were already incensed when some schools dropped Christmas plays and creches to avoid hurting thefeelings of Muslim children.

The row even prompted a reaction from Pope John Paul II, who stressed that Christmas cribs were a part of Italy's Catholic heritage.



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