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1958-11-24 - Constitutional Court, n. 59

Public space · Italy · Discrimination · Place of worship

Rules pertaining to the opening of a non-Catholic place of worship

Key facts of the case - Before the Court of Crotone, the applicant was sued for having practiced religion (Pentecostal faith) in a place of worship despite the lack of authorization of public authorities. This authorization is required by the Act of 24 June 1929, but the applicant argues that it would contradict Article 8, 19 and 20 of the Constitution. The Court of Crotone then decided to transmit the issue to the Constitutional Court.

Main reasoning of the court - The Constitutional Court declared the legal provisions in Article 1 of the Royal Decree no. 289/1930 illegitimate, where they required that 1) an authorization had to be requested in order to open a place of worship, and 2) this authorization had to be requested by a previously approved religious authority. The judges maintained that, if no special authorizations were required to open a Catholic place of worship, then the same principle should apply to any other religious denominations’ place of worship. As to the second point, it is true that, according to Act no. 1159 of 24 June 1929 which applies to the so-called admitted religious denominations (that is, all religious denominations whose principles and rites do not breach public order and morals are free in the Italian territory), their respective religious authorities must have been approved by the Ministry of Interior Affairs.
However, approval only concerns acts for which the recognition of civil effects is requested – typically, the celebration of marriages. No approval is required for acts relating to merely spiritual matters. Last but not least, it should be noted that the examined case did not concern a mosque (there was no ‘Islam Question’ at that time), but the temple opened by a non-approved Pentecostal religious authority.

See the decision (in Italian): 1958-11-24 - Constitutional Court, n. 59.