The government generally did not enforce the law against blasphemy and there was no recorded instance of enforcement during the year.
There was no progress in negotiations for an accord between the government and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The government initiated negotiations for an accord with the Romanian Orthodox Church, and the Episcopal Council. On June 27, the government signed an accord with the Soka Gakkai, a Japanese Buddhist group. By year’s end, the accord had not been approved by parliament. Through the end of the year, no Muslim groups had been able to obtain an accord with the government or begun negotiations for one.
There was widespread criticism, including by Minister of Justice Andrea Orlando, of the Lombardy legislation, enacted in December by the Northern League party in control of the regional government, banning face coverings in public buildings.
Muslims continued to encounter difficulties acquiring permission from local governments to construct mosques. As of October there were four officially recognized mosques, one each in Ravenna, Rome, Colle Val D’Elsa, and Milan, but more than 800 unofficial, informal places of worship for Muslims. Local officials cited a lack of zoning plans authorizing the establishment of places of worship on specific sites. In November following the terrorist attacks in Paris, senior government officials said places of worship, including “irregular” mosques, should be brought into accordance with the law. At year’s end there were no reports the government had closed or taken other actions with regard to any mosques or other places of worship. On March 13, soon after the Lombardy law restricting unregistered religious groups from building houses of worship was enacted, the prime minister filed an appeal to the Constitutional Court for review. The court had not issued a decision at year’s end.
On October 13, the Church of Scientology inaugurated its second-largest temple in the country in Milan. Some Muslims said the fact that a much smaller religious group was able to obtain the permit to transform a building into a place of worship relatively quickly, while local authorities subjected their own requests to long delays, amounted to discrimination.
On September 19, the municipality of Milan assigned three sites for the construction of two mosques and a Protestant church.
On March 13, the municipality of Salerno authorized the construction of a mosque sponsored by the cultural and religious association called Bangladesh.
In a regular, periodic review of the accord system published on November 2, the national Court of Audit noted the lack of checks on the use of funds provided by the government to religious groups and the risk of discrimination against faiths that have not signed an accord with the government.
In January Giorgia Meloni, Member of Parliament and President of the party Brothers of Italy, publicly opposed the decision to build more mosques in Milan, stating the national and local governments needed to establish norms to prevent what she described as extremist groups from opening mosques and calling for a public register of imams.
Local governments often rented out public land at discounted rates to religious groups for constructing places of worship. Government funding also helped preserve and maintain historic places of worship, which were almost all Catholic.
The presence of Catholic symbols such as crucifixes in courtrooms, schools, and other public buildings continued to draw criticism from proponents of greater separation of church and state such as the Union of Atheists and Rational Agnostics. On April 2, the director of a high school in Terni suspended a teacher for a month for removing a crucifix from a classroom. On September 3, a municipal council member in Padua donated 1,500 crucifixes to be displayed in municipal offices and schools. On September 14, a city council member in Florence obtained the removal of a large crucifix displayed in a hall used for council meetings.
On January 20, a Rome court convicted six members of the far-right group Militia to eight to 18 months in jail for promoting religious hatred through anti-Semitic banners, graffiti, and posters.
The Chamber of Deputies passed a draft bill on October 13 that would codify Holocaust denial as an aggravating circumstance in the prosecution of hate crimes. The proposed legislation, which the Senate had yet to consider at year’s end, would also apply in case of denial of genocide or crimes against humanity.
In September the municipal museum of Recanati screened a documentary titled Israel, the Cancer, produced by a local filmmaker, in a government-run auditorium. News reports said the film compared Israeli soldiers to Nazis. Recanati residents, Italy’s Jewish community, and the Israeli embassy criticized the screening.
The government did not interpret a law requiring individuals to show their faces in public as applying to women who covered their faces for religious reasons. Women freely wore hijabs, niqabs, or burkas.
The government is a member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.