New secularist attack. This time Justice resolves well: the crucifix does not indoctrinate, but appeals to the Hope that “pain does not break the Spirit”.
Let’s see. A citizen files a tutela to demand the removal of the crucifix from the plenary room of the Constitutional Court. It considers that the mere presence of the Cross is a violation of the secular state and, moreover, may coerce the magistrates in their decisions.
The sentence categorically rejects this: neither “have the judges’ criteria and objectivity been affected” nor does the presence of the Cross “constitute a form of exclusion or indoctrination”.
The Constitutional Court recalls that the 1991 Constitution defines the Colombian State as “neutral” with respect to religion. This neutrality must be translated into “plurality, egalitarian coexistence and autonomy of the different religions” . That is to say, neutrality does not oblige the State to abstain from relations with the confessions, but it vetoes the establishment of discrimination in relations with the confessions. However, he warns or qualifies: “the fact that a religion is widespread does not imply privileged treatment”. Not privileged, but not hostile either.
Because, in addition, the crucifix has a historical and cultural value. And specifically, the crucifix in the plenary room of the Alfonso Reyes Echandía courthouse has historical value because it has been there since the room was inaugurated on July 7, 1999. And it has a cultural value because it was carved by a wood craftsman of Candelaria “of recognized talent”, says the sentence, which also recalls that UNESCO defines cultural identity as “the distinctive spiritual, material and emotional features; arts, letters, ways of life, belief system and traditions”.
In addition, the judgment cites case law of high courts on the same matter. For example, the Constitutional Tribunal of Peru ruled on March 7, 2011 that the “radical incompetence of the State in the face of faith”. should not be interpreted as hostility or defenselessness. “We would be facing a sort of non-religious confessional state.” He also recalls that the influence of Christianity in shaping the country is “undeniable”. Therefore, he concludes that “tolerance cannot lead to intolerance towards one’s own identity”.
The Colombian Constitutional Court also cites a judgment of the Superior Court of Justice of Santa Rosa (Argentina) that appeals to “positive secularism”, that is, the recognition of the social transcendence of the religious fact and its treatment as a positive fact for the Common Good. This obliges the political power to collaborate with respect for autonomy, plurality and full impartiality. The Argentine court concludes that the Bible or the crucifix are “essentially passive symbols, without indoctrinating capacity”.
In addition, the Colombian ruling also cites the ruling of the Strasbourg Court of Human Rights of March 18, 2011 and the 1983 Marsh v. Chambersruling of the U.S. Supreme Court declaring the recitation of a prayer prior to parliamentary sessions to be constitutional. “It is part of our social fabric for 200 years,” the U.S. court concludes.
For the same reason, the crucifix is part of the history, culture and tradition of Colombia, it does not harm anyone or obligate anyone to anything, rather it helps and reminds us of the identity from which flows the thirst for justice and the desire to do good. That is why the Constitutional Court decided to keep it in the plenary room. Good news for religious freedom.