The “Anti-Mosques” Law of Lombardy and Religious Freedom in Italy

Lombardy, Italy’s most populous region, has just enacted a law that seems to be designed to make life for Muslims as hard as possible. On January 27th, the Council of the Lombardy Region has enacted amendments to the Regional Law that regulates the planning of buildings and other structures for religious purposes. These amendments make it extremely cumbersome to build new places of worship for all non-established religious denominations, particularly Muslims – while the still dominant Catholic Church remains exempted from the regulation. Discrimination is not the only aspect of the new law that makes its constitutionality look more than questionable.

The new law requires, briefly speaking, a local agreement between the representative bodies of the denominations and the territorial municipalities to obtain an authorization for the religious building. Several conditions apply: on one side, the denominations (important, not their representative bodies) must have an extensive, consistent and organized presence in the municipality where the new building is located. The law requires every denomination to express clearly the religious nature of its institutional purposes as well as to observe the principles and values of the Italian Constitution.

In this regard, the new norms provide to establish a new Regional Consultation Agency (RCA), whose (positive) preliminary evaluation is mandatory. On the other side, the law requires the municipalities to conduct a survey, obtaining the advice of many local bodies, like citizens’ organizations & committees, members and representatives of the local police as well as of the HQ district police, the prefecture, in order to assess – it reads – «all the possible aspects of public safety». The municipalities are also entitled to announce a referendum on the matter, but it is not clear whether the result of such a consultation is binding or not ...

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