Marco Croce

La libertà religiosa nella giurisprudenza costituzionale

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The author examines the Italian Constitutional Court's Jurisprudence on the fiftieth anniversary of the Court's establishment. The article considers how the Court adjudicated cases concerning criminal laws punishing offences against the Roman Catholic religion only and laws prescribing oaths modelled upon Roman Catholic "formulae". He divides these last fifty years into three intervals. During the first one - which starts in 1956 and ends in 1979 - the Court upholds these laws on the assumption that since the Roman Catholic religion is that of the overwhelming majority of the Italian people, laws that afford it a greater protection by the State are permissible. During the second interval - that ends in 1990 - the Court overturns precedents and states that all religious convictions and atheism alike deserve the same protection, as well as affirming the principle that Italy is a secular state. During the most recent interval - from 1990 onward - the Court, adhering to these two principles, invalidates laws conflicting with them. The author concluded that although much progress has been made toward full enforcement of the constitutional principle of religious freedom, two issues have yet to be properly addressed. First, not every oath characterised by a religious bent has been declared unconstitutional. Second, many judges - particularly administrative judges - do not grant atheistic convictions the same protection granted to traditional religious beliefs under the principle of freedom of religion.

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