//Italian Judge dismisses case over existence of Jesus

Italian Judge dismisses case over existence of Jesus

Rome, Feb. 10 (AP): An Italian judge dismissed an atheist’s case that a small-town priest should stand trial for asserting that Jesus Christ existed, a lawyer said today.

The priest’s accuser, Luigi Cascioli, contended the Roman Catholic Church has been deceiving people for 2,000 years with a fable that Christ existed and he accused the priest of violating two laws with the assertion.

"The judge has ordered that the case be shelved," said Bruno Severo, a lawyer for the prelate, Rev Enrico Righi.

"The Rev Righi is very satisfied and moved," Severo said. "He is an old, small-town parish priest who never would have thought he’d be in the spotlight for something like this."

The ruling was released yesterday in Viterbo, a town north of Rome where the priest is based. In his decision, Judge Gaetano Mautone also said prosecutors should investigate Cascioli for possible slander, the lawyer said.

Cascioli filed a criminal complaint against Righi, his old schoolmate, in 2002 after Righi wrote in a parish bulletin that Jesus did indeed exist, and that he was born of a couple named Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem and lived in Nazareth.

Cascioli claims that Righi’s assertion violated two laws: so-called "abuse of popular belief" in which someone fraudulently deceives people; and "impersonation," in which someone gains by attributing a false name to someone.

Righi, 76, has stressed substantial historical evidence – both Christian and non-Christian – of Jesus’ existence.

Cascioli was not available for comment today.