d to preside since May after authorities said he must not remove the crucifix from his courtroom wall. The judge said the Christian symbol discriminated against defendants of other faiths or of none. "I have a sacrosanct right not to work with a crucifix above my head," 57-year-old Tosti told Reuters. Italian authorities disagree. Luigi was given a seven-month suspended jail sentence in December for refusing to carry out his public duty, and on Wednesday he was suspended without pay by the professional body which governs Italy's judiciary.
Laws passed under fascist dictator Benito Mussolini in the 1920s decree that Italian schools and courtrooms must display the cross. Since Italy dropped Catholicism as the state religion under a new accord with the Vatican in 1984 the law has not been strictly enforced in schools but Italian judges still preside under a crucifix on the courtroom wall. Tosti, a religious sceptic who says he has "sympathies" for Judaism, decided to test the law by asking to put a menorah, the symbolic Jewish candelabrum, next to the crucifix, but he was told no. "From the moment you ban one religious symbol and allow another, that's discrimination. It's like saying blacks and Jews have to sit outside," said Tosti. He also refused a proposal to operate in a separate court room where there would be no cross, saying it would "ghettoise" him. He insisted that the crucifix in the main courtroom in Camerino had to go.
The row over crucifixes has inflamed Italian passions. Pope Benedict, upholding the line of his predecessor John Paul, has insisted that it is right for countries with Catholic roots to display the cross in public spaces. Secularists like Tosti believe the Church has too much influence in Italian affairs and they are campaigning to remove crosses from all courthouses and schoolrooms.
Tosti, who is appealing his conviction, rejected the notion that Catholic symbols were a valuable part of the cultural heritage of countries like Italy. "I don't identify myself with a Church that has committed crimes for the last 2,000 years. The history of the Church is anything but good. Woe to those who consider it (the crucifix) as a symbol of civilisation."