http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldne ... rooms.html
The landmark judgment could force a Europe-wide review of the use of religious symbols in state-run schools.
A panel of seven judges in Strasbourg said the display of Christian crosses, which is common but not mandatory in Italian schools, violated the principle of secular education and might be "disturbing" for children from other faiths.
It upheld a complaint filed by Soile Lautsi, a Finnish woman with Italian citizenship, who complained that her children had to attend a state school in northern Italy which had crucifixes in every classroom.
The court awarded her 5,000 euros (£4,470) in "moral damages", which will have to be paid by the Italian government.
It stopped short of ordering authorities to remove crucifixes from all state-run schools and the long-term implications of the ruling were unclear.
"The presence of the crucifix could be ... disturbing for pupils who practised other religions or were atheists, particularly if they belonged to religious minorities," the court said in its ruling.
The judgment sparked anger in predominantly Catholic Italy, with ministers from Silvio Berlusconi's conservative government saying the crucifix was an integral part of national culture and identity.
A member of the governing People of Freedom party, Antonio Mazzocchi, said that Europe was in danger of forgetting its Christian heritage.
The agriculture minister, Luca Zaia, a member of the anti-immigrant Northern League, a key ally in Mr Berlusconi's bloc, called the judgment "shameful".
The foreign minister, Franco Frattini, said it was an attack on Italy's Christian identity and that the government would appeal the decision.
"At a time when we're trying to bring religions closer together, this is a blow to Christianity," he said.
The head of the Italian bishops' intercultural dialogue commission, Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia, said the court's decision was "irresponsible".