An atheism-promoting organization has withdrawn its lawsuit demanding Christian baptisms of children be banned in Italy after a U.S.-based legal team took on the defense of a bishop and the Roman Catholic Church there.
“This was a preposterous lawsuit, and we are pleased that it has been dropped,” said Joseph Infranco, a senior counsel for the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund.
However, he said, “Americans should be aware that such lawsuits may seem far-fetched, but they really are happening … and foreign legal decisions are increasingly cited in American courts.”
The ADF stepped into the battle when the Italian Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics filed a lawsuit seeking an end to all baptisms of children in Italy. The organization alleged the practice encroached on its religious freedom and violated Italian Constitutional Court precedents regarding free will and personal privacy in religious decisions.
The organization alleged the law does not allow parents to enroll their children in certain groups such as trade unions, therefore, the law also “does not allow, as well, that the parents may decide their children become members of a religious association.”
The Alliance Defense Fund reported the plaintiff in the case was demanding that his name be erased from a baptism registry in what was described as a type of “debaptism.”
But the petition was withdrawn just before a court hearing was to take place.
Gianfranco Amato, an ADF-allied attorney, said the plaintiff became convinced that the nation’s legal precedents would not support such demands.
“It’s unthinkable to ask the government to force the church to abandon one of its sacraments to appease a radical, anti-religious agenda, yet that’s what this activist group did,” said Amato.
“According to Italian law, the demand to remove a name from the register must be made by an individual with a personal interest, rather than by a private association such as the UAAR,” said Amato. “Also, it was easy to demonstrate that the group had no legal leg on which to stand.”
Infranco said, “All parents have the right to raise their children in their religious tradition, which obviously includes participation in the historic rituals associated with that religion.”
The website for the atheist organization is in Italian, but an English translation describes the group as being based on the values of human rights, democracy, pluralism, equality and individuality.
The website has been highlighted among a listing of resources on the website of prominent atheist Richard Dawkins.