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May 10 2007
Italian tolerance

I got this article off Yahoo news. It'll surely turn up other places. Pasted the entire article below (its not long) but the direct link is:

I must say, even as a freethinker (my self-descriptive preference over agnostic or atheist), that I agree with De Albertis statement that "if I went to a foreign country I would never dream of asking them to take down a religious symbol representing their faith, culture and traidtions..."

Well, far as I'm concerned - Right On, Mr De Albertis. Keep the crucifixes up there ! I mean, isn't that a part of Italy?

No, I wouldn't want Baptist symbology hovering over me (or my pregnant wife:) ) over here, but... Italy? Without crucifixes?? C'mon !!

Would love to know other SHL readers thoughts.

Anyway, read on:

Milan hospital removes crucifixes, sparks row Thu May 10, 10:21 AM ET

A top Italian maternity hospital has drawn criticism from right-wing politicians by replacing crucifixes on the walls of its wards with images of the Virgin Mary so as not to offend immigrant women giving birth there.

Basilio Tiso, head of Milan's Mangiagalli clinic where 7,000 women give birth each year, said it was felt the Virgin's image was more fitting to motherhood and was less of a religious statement than a crucifix.

"We have so many people who come here from different backgrounds, different countries," he told Reuters, adding that the move was intended to "help us all live together in a more civil way."

But Carla De Albertis, a Milan townhall official in charge of health affairs, called the decision "folly."

"If I went to a foreign country, I would never dream of asking them to take down a religious symbol representing their faith, culture and traditions," she said.

"We should not lead people to believe that we are ashamed of our roots," she said.

Ignazio La Russa, from the right-wing National Alliance, called on the hospital's patients to take their own crosses with them and put them on the walls.

The Mangiagalli, Milan's largest obstetric hospital, is known for its secular stance in defending women's right to have an abortion in a predominantly Roman Catholic country where doctors can refuse to terminate pregnancies for religious motives.

"There weren't many crosses in this hospital anyway and we thought the image of the Virgin Mary would be more fitting in a maternity ward," Tiso said.

Italy has one of the lowest birth rates in the world and many of those who have babies are immigrants.


Copyright 2007 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

May 11 2007

I think it is not a matter of being "more" or "less" religious. People who were raised Christian, even those who grow up non-religious, seem to be blind to one simple fact: a crucifix is a GHASTLY thing which will disgust anyone who is not Christian.

Please keep in mind the difference between this and being offended at -- just for example -- a Jewish star or a statue of Ganesh. The thing that is gross about it is not that it belongs to another religion, but that it is a representation of a person being tortured to death in a bloody and gruesome manner! In that respect, it is much more like the religious imagery I saw on a recent trip to Mexico. Everywhere we looked there were ancient carvings of people being decapitated with blood spurting out of their necks. I'm sure that the people who lived in those cities long ago were quite used to these images, but when you first see them they are disturbing.

Now imagine yourself being in a modern hospital and seeing pictures on the walls of people being decapitated with blood spurting out of their necks. It might be some small comfort to know that these are religious images for someone else...but it still will make your hospital stay less enjoyable.

In conclusion, let me say that this really reminds me of the "Merry Christmas" versus "Happy Holidays" war that is going on over here. I do not know Italian law, but I would guess that there is no law PREVENTING the crucifixes from being hung in the hospitals, just as there is no law preventing "Merry Christmas" signs being hung in stores here. In each case, I am not saying that I think there should be a law.

On the other hand, the stores and the hospitals both have customers who are NOT Christian. It is reasonable for them to consider the needs of these customers as well. If they can be more inclusive and less offensive by changing to paintings of the Virgin Mary or simple crosses (still demonstrating their Christianity, but in a less gory way) or "Happy Holidays" (still sending positive wishes to the Christians but ALSO to the other customers who are celebrating different holidays) then I think they should. Note that in each case the Christians are not actually losing anything. Rather, they seem to be upset that someone might dare be considerate of non-Christians! True, they can insist on being inconsiderate even when courtesy would be easy...but I reserve the right to think less of them when they do.


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