Jews in Italy Laud Move Banning Defamation of Religious Groups

The Council of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities expressed gratification today over amendments to the Italian criminal code, soon to be presented to Parliament, which would make it a criminal offense to commit any action violating the principle of equality of all citizens without regard to religious, ethnic or political considerations.

The amendments also would ban defamation or insults against ethnic and religious groups in Italy. Absence of such restrictions has led to repeated incidents involving Italian Jews, one of the more damaging ones being the incident last year involving a Turin judge, Giovanni Durando, who is also editor of a periodical, the Voice of Justice.

The periodical in its May 6, 1961 issue published an article fiercely attacking the trial in Jerusalem of Adolf Eichmann which included many defamations, including the charge that Jews were “totally deprived of any sense of morality.” The magistrate was accused of militant anti-Semitism but he was acquitted.

The amendments also would establish complete parity of all religious groups in Italy concerning the severity of sanctions for acts of contempt, abuse or invectives directed against the divinity of other religious groups, religious symbols and related matters. Under present law, the penal code makes distinctions between the “state” religion, Catholicism, and “other confessions of faith.” Similar acts against the memory of the dead also would be punishable under the amendments.

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