The display of crucifixes in Italian state schools is not a breach of human rights, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled.
If the ruling had gone the other way, it could have led to a Europe-wide ban on any religious symbol in state schools.
The ruling overturns a previous decision by the court in 2009 which said the display of crucifixes could be disturbing to non-Christian or atheist pupils.
The case centres on a complaint made by a Finnish woman, Soile Lautsi, who is married to an Italian.
She objected that her two children had to attend a public school in northern Italy which had crucifixes in every classroom.
She took legal action in Italy, but the Italian courts ruled against her.
Her case went to the European Court of Human Rights and, in 2009, it ruled in her favour.
The decision caused outrage in Italy, where the crucifix is seen as a symbol of national identity.
The Italian Government appealed, and today the court has overturned its previous ruling.
Today’s decision has been welcomed by religious liberty lawyers.
Roger Kiska of the Alliance Defense Fund said: “The European Court of Human Rights shouldn’t overstep its authority and force a member nation to abandon traditions and beliefs that it has a sovereign right to protect if it so chooses.”
He added: “A loss in this case would have meant, in essence, that it would be illegal under the European Convention on Human Rights to have religious symbols in any state institution anywhere in Europe”.