Italy will fight Wednesday against a European court ruling that crucifixes in classrooms violate students' right to freedom of religion.
The European Court of Human Rights found unanimously last November that the display of a particular religious symbol - such as the Christian cross - in a classroom "restricted the right of parents to educate their children in conformity with their convictions, and the right of children to believe or not to believe."
But the court agreed in January to hear Italy's appeal. Ten other European governments, dozens of European lawmakers and half a dozen non-governmental organizations have also gotten involved in the appeal.
The original case was brought by an Italian woman, Soile Lautsi, who objected to the crucifixes on the walls in her two sons' classrooms.
She fought her way through the Italian legal system starting in 2001, arguing that she wanted to raise her children as secular, according to court documents.
Italian courts ruled earlier that the cross was a symbol of Italy's history and culture, prompting Lautsi to take her case to the European court in Strasbourg, France.
It awarded her 5,000 euros ($7,400) in damages in November.
The court does not have the power to force Italy to take down the representations of Jesus on the cross, but if its ruling stands and Italy does not comply, the door would be open for others to sue on the same grounds, court spokesman Stefano Piedimonte told CNN.
Leading Catholic figures expressed astonishment and anger at the ruling last year. The Italian Conference of Bishops called it "cause for bitterness and many perplexities."
"It does not take into account the fact that in Italy the display of the crucifix in public places is in line with the recognition of the principles of the Catholicism as 'part of the historical patrimony of the Italian people,' as stated in the Vatican/Italy agreement of 1984," the bishops said in a written statement.
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Hard to believe - the Italians are moving to kick the catholic influence out of their secular schools! I knew things were moving in Italy when they legalized abortion, but I'm not certain I ever would have anticipated this action. Way to go, Ms. Lautsi!