The ruling: The crucifix cannot be imposed in public offices

March 21, 2024 – It’s been 14 years, but in the end, the Council of State ruled in favor of Uaar for a case dating back to 2010. In Mandas, a small municipality of two thousand inhabitants in the south of Sardinia, in the province of Cagliari, in November 2009, the mayor of the Udc Umberto Oppus issued an ordinance mandating the display of the crucifix in all public buildings. Those who do not display it risk a fine of 500 euros from the local police, transformed for the occasion into Moral Police, akin to Iran.

The reason for the mayor’s ordinance was a reaction to the ruling of the European Court of Strasbourg, issued following the appeal filed by Uaar member Soile Lautsi. The ordinance remained in force for a few months, then the staunchly Catholic mayor cunningly withdrew it secretly, after having placed crucifixes in all public offices.

However, Uaar had already filed an appeal which was rejected by the Administrative Court of Sardinia in 2017. Today, the Council of State has definitively ruled in favor of Uaar “for the Mayor having exceeded the powers attributed to him.” Indeed, the principles of legality and the principle of typicality of administrative measures were violated. According to the judgment of the highest organ of administrative justice, not only could the mayor not issue that ordinance, which was neither provided for nor justified by any norm, but as stated by the Court of Cassation in the case of Franco Coppoli, he should have sought agreement and consensus in his community anyway. Therefore, the mayor’s measure was entirely illegitimate.

“This is a great victory for secularism,” comments Adele Orioli, head of legal initiatives for Uaar, “and also a check on the ‘cunningness’ of certain administrations: even if a measure is withdrawn, once its purpose has been achieved, it can still be declared illegitimate and give rise to compensation for damages.”

“Thanks to Uaar’s legal initiatives, our country takes another step towards civilization,” comments Uaar’s national secretary Roberto Grendene. “Without Uaar, with its structure, its members’ funds, its tenacity, and its legal experts like Francesca Leurini, no one would be able to endure 14 years of litigation.”

And after three decades, Umberto Oppus is still the mayor of Mandas, having held office for 10 years from 2005 to 2015 and again from 2020 to the present. “I take note of the judgment,” Oppus comments. “In this case, the Council of State ruled after hearing only one side. Indeed, the Municipality did not appear in court. Perhaps with the version of the other party, we would have had a different type of judgment.” But in the end, he confesses, also in virtue of the judgment, that he would not do it again: “The world evolves. Secularism was also one of the most important values for De Gasperi, but it does not contemplate the erasure of centuries-old historical-cultural traditions.”

The judgment of the Council of State represents the fourth consecutive victory for Uaar. The first occurred when in Verona, the Court of Cassation in 2020 and the Court of Appeal in 2022 established the right to atheist propaganda recognized to non-believers. The second victory was in 2021 when the Administrative Court ruled in favor of Uaar regarding the alternative hour to Catholic religious instruction. According to the judges of the Administrative Court, the choice of alternative activities “must occur in times that guarantee the timely planning and start of educational activities.” The third victory: the United Sections of the Court of Cassation in 2021 ruled that the crucifix could no longer be arbitrarily imposed in school classrooms, and in 2022, the Court of Appeal of Perugia definitively closed the case of Professor Franco Coppoli. With this fourth victory, the principle of the secularism of the State is reaffirmed once again.

NEWS SOURCE: Uaar Press Office

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La sentenza. Il crocifisso negli uffici pubblici non può essere imposto