Political correctness in Italy
Some believe Italian and European culture to be “under attack” due to the emergence of so-called ‘Christianophobia’. Is this just a political strategy, or is Christianity really being threatened?
This article is part of our series on normativity in Europe.
One of the hottest and most controversial discussions in Italian society and politics is around the issue of political correctness. One criticism that many politicians, especially from the political right, make is that political correctness imposes a specific normative code on the Italian people and society and, in a certain way, undermines freedom of expression. 
On the other hand, the same critics of political correctness are starting to become politically correct themselves in order to protect their own values. For instance, they have developed the term ‘Christianophobia’, which is supposed to be parallel to the problem of homophobia of which they are often accused. Therefore, the norm of political correctness is becoming an instrument to justify less popular views and create divisions, instead of bridges, within Italian society.
In February 2021, the Northern League, an Italian right-wing party, proposed to use public funds to establish an ‘Observatory of Christianophobia’. The Northern League adviser Max Bastoni stated that “Italian and European culture” is “under attack” due to the emergence of Christianophobia in Italy and is in need of this observatory.  The Observatory of Christianophobia’s website states:
Since 2000, 160,000 Christians have been victims of persecution every year. Every five minutes a Christian was killed because of his faith. All this cannot be accepted, because it constitutes an offence against God and human dignity. Moreover, it is a threat to security and peace and prevents the achievement of authentic integral human development.
Christians are persecuted because they are not ‘politically correct’
According to Bastoni, it is often the norm of the politically correct to be responsible for the development and increase of Christianophobia in Italy. He argued that in Italy, “a simple Mass in favour of the natural family or a rosary against gay marriages ends up entering the statistics of the courts.” Moreover, Bastoni also argues that this is “not an exclusively confessional theme. Italian and European culture is under attack.” Finally, this anti-Christian sentiment is, according to him, because of “demographic decrease” and “mass immigration” in Italy.
The position of the Northern League in the Lombardia region is not an isolated case. In September 2020, the Lazio region made a similar proposal. It was advocated by the Lazio regional councillor Laura Corrott. Corrott stressed the need to establish a ‘Regional Observatory on Christianophobia’ due to the damages done to some places of worship in Italy. She argued that attacks on places of worship represent acts of persecution against Catholics. Yet, those on the other side of the political spectrum argue that these attacks to places of worship were isolated cases and were done by individuals with diagnosed mental disorders.
A law proposal against Christianophobia
The battle against Christianophobia is pursued by the Northern League at a national level as well. In December 2021, Lorenzo Fontana of the Northern League advanced a law proposal against Christianophobia. It is interesting to note that in the same period, the Italian parliament was also discussing a law against homophobia. Therefore, the proposal is a direct response to a law that enhances politically correct values. Thus, again, it appears that the phenomenon of Christianophobia is directly connected to the Italian development of political correctness and the protection of minority groups.   
Is it a political strategy?
The question arises whether the Northern League is advancing this law and changes in order to obtain votes from religious circles in Italy. Catholics in Italy have strong political power and represent a large number of voters. Therefore, discussing Christianophobia could be a good political strategy for the League. Nevertheless, this does not negate the fact that Catholics in Italy identify with this idea of Christianophobia because it may well be a real problem.
In conclusion, Christians who express values that go against the ‘politically correct’ often feel discriminated against in Italy. As a consequence, politicians in Italy are proposing laws and reforms to counteract this phenomenon. These reforms are based on the same ‘politically correct’ strategies and principles used by discriminated groups. So while there is a law against homophobia, right-wing politicians are trying to develop a parallel law against Christianophobia. However, this situation risks creating bubbles and divisions in Italian society rather than bridging gaps. We will need to see in which way Italy will respond to this challenge and bridge these gaps among different Italian social groups.
Our team of analysts conducts research on topics relating to religion and society. In the second half of 2021, we are focusing on the subject of normativity. Find out more on the EARS Dashboard.