The display of crucifixes in Catholic schools in Italy does not breach the rights of non-Catholic families, the European Court of Human Rights says.
The ruling overturned a previous decision made in November 2009. It has been broadly welcomed by civil rights and free speech groups, as well as by the Vatican and a variety of religious organisations.
The original case was brought by Finnish-born mother-of-two Soile Lautsi,who said public schools in the Italian town where she lived would not remove Catholic symbols from classrooms, violating the secular principles public-funded schools are supposed to uphold.
Crosses and crucifixes are customary but not compulsory in Italian school classrooms.
The final decision by the Strasbourg-based court's Grand Chamber said it found no evidence "that the display of such a symbol on classroom walls might have an influence on pupils".
The decision has implications for other EU countries, including France, which bans religious symbols in public places, in line with its 'eliminative' version of secularism.
"Freedom of religion, freedom from discrimination, freedom of choice are fundamental principles and in this case they weren't respected," Soile Lautsi's husband responded to journalists in the northern Italian town of Abano Terme after the judgement.