Next Wednesday, 30 June, the European Court of Human rights will hear a case concerning the display of religious symbols in public schools in Italy. The case is complex but some important points of principle are also potentially engaged. In response to a request for comment Archbishop Smith said:
"The Lautsi case, which is about to be heard by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, has generated much debate about the relationship between the protection of human rights and the manifestation of religion in the public sphere.
"It would be inappropriate to comment in detail on a case currently before the Court, but it would clearly be unfortunate and unacceptable if the Court in this or subsequent cases moved from ensuring the freedom of individuals from the imposition of a particular state religion - a position which the Church supports, to requiring that all European countries conform to a model of secularism that is antagonistic to any manifestation of religion in the public sphere. That would neither be consistent with the Court's own previous approach, nor reflective of the principle of freedom of religion that the Convention protects."