The Italian Almanac

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Italian News - November 20

An Italian judge who refuses to hear cases because there are crucifixes in the nation’s courtrooms was convicted Friday of failing to carry out his official duties and sentenced to seven months in jail. For months, Judge Luigi Tosti has refused to hold court in Camerino in central Italy, insisting religious symbols have no place in a court of law. He said Italy’s constitutional provisions on human rights back his argument.

He was sentenced by a court in L’Aquila, also in central Italy, and said he would appeal. Convicted defendants in Italy do not start serving sentences until the last of two appeals is exhausted, and short sentences are usually suspended for first-time offenders. Tosti was also banned from holding public office for a year.

“I was convicted because I am a minor-league citizen compared to Catholics,” Tosti said. “I could be an atheist or a Buddhist, it doesn’t matter.” He refused to describe his religious beliefs, calling it a private matter.

Courtrooms in traditionally Roman Catholic Italy have crucifixes on the wall behind the judge’s bench. Italian courtrooms also bear the motto, “The law is equal for everyone,” written in large letters.