December 2, 2009
The following is a statement by the Italian Evangelical Alliances in response to an item in the last WEA Religious Liberty Prayer News edition from November 15, 2009 under the heading “Modern day persecution in Italy”
Statement of the Executive Council of the Italian Evangelical Alliance:
We read with amazement and sadness the news about "modern day persecution in Italy" on the recent WEA RL Bulletin. Contrary to the Bulletin, we support the European Court for Human Rights' decision about the crucifix based on different arguments:
1. It has to do with state, public buildings. It is not anti-religious as such.
2. The crucifix as object is a reminiscence of the confessional state, which is no longer in place in Italy (though in state buildings: courts, hospitals, schools... we still have statues of Mary, saints, various shrines etc.).
3. It is attached to other catholic privileges, i.e. catholic teaching in schools paid by public money, different legal status of the catholic church, etc.).
For your information, here is a resumé of the Religious Liberty situation in Italy. We would hope that WEA supports religious liberty for minorities and not vestiges of a nominally Christian system of power!
Our Constitution deals with religious groups according to a ladder: art. 7 deals with the Catholic Church (represented by the Vatican, a sovereign state) art. 8 deals with other religious groups which sign an agreement with the state. There are seven groups at the moment (including the Waldensians, Lutherans, Baptist Union and Assemblies of God). Other evangelical denominations are asking for that but the state is slow in proceeding further. Muslims are asking to sign the agreement but for political reasons the government does not want to proceed. Other evangelical churches do not want to sign any agreement with the state because of their ecclesiological convictions.
Parliament is discussing the religious liberty law, something that we have been waiting for 40 years. There are bits of fascist legislation which discriminate against minorities. They are no longer applied but, technically, they are there. We ask for a RL law that would erase that legislation and introduce a fair framework for all religious groups.
A worrying trend of Catholic confessionalism has been increasing over the last few years. In public schools, catholic teachers are the only allowed to teach religion (by the way Roman Catholic catechism). They are chosen by bishops and paid by tax-payers! Public policies are more often inclined to confirm and allow privileges toward the Catholic Church in many areas (tax-system, funding of church building and initiatives, etc.). The national media broadcaster (RAI)has a Vatican department daily providing the nation with all kinds of information about the pope and the RC church. Nearly nothing is done to inform about religious pluralism.
There is a huge issue of laicité. Though secular, the Italian state is always looking for the RC church support in its policies and the RC church is always trying to influence Italian politics. The RC church is conscious of her privileges, does not support RL issues, has a defensive mood in trying to keep the huge privileges it has in terms of public funding and political support.
We are organizing a rally for religious liberty in June 2010 and we would like to raise the European profile and global profile. Would you help us to deal with the REAL issues and not in defense of the confessional state? Would you stand with us and not with the powerful devices of a religious state-church?
Roberto Mazzeschi (chairman)
Leonardo De Chirico
Gian Piero Marussich
Rome, 17th November 2009
Alleanza Evangelica Italiana
Vicolo S. Agata 20