A controversial sign has been put up by a roadside, telling drivers approaching Pontoglio that the Lombardy town of almost 7,000 inhabitants is one of “western culture and profound Christian traditions”.
The sign goes on to say that anyone caught disrespecting the town’s deep-rooted culture and local traditions would be asked to leave.
Mayor Alessandro Seghezzi was granted permission from the local council to erect the sign at entrances to the town, explaining in a letter that the move is intended to preserve the area’s values and culture, as well as keep citizens safe.
“Today we’re living in a transitory period,” he wrote.
“It’s our job to ensure that all comply with rules that govern civil life.”
Seghezzi told Corriere that the town’s culture is “based on mutual respect: from women and music to dress, customs and traditions”.
Local councillor Paolo Bocchi backed the move, insisting that there was “nothing racist about it”.
“These are just the interpretations being made…this is purely information about our history, our tradition. I challenge anyone to say that Pontoglio’s story is any different.”
But others lambasted the move, with Laura Castellletti, the deputy mayor of Brescia, saying: “I thought I lived in a secular state. I was also convinced that there was no state religion in Italy.”
In fact, Roman Catholicism ceased to be the state religion in 1984.
Many people took to Twitter to criticize the sign, with one saying: “What a beautiful Christian welcome?”
I cristianissimi abitanti di #Pontoglio invitano ad andarsene chi non condivide i loro valori. Ma quanto è bella l'accoglienza cristiana?
— Filippo Casini (@Filippo_Casini) December 17, 2015
Although the sign was not obviously directed at Muslims, areas of the north have been strongly opposed to accommodating refugees from Syria and other conflict zone. There have also been several indications of rising anti-Muslim angst in the wake of the Paris attacks.
But this isn't the first time Brescia towns have used public sign posts to express their message.
Authorities in Capriolo and Prevalle recently spread their views against “gender ideology” via official town hall outdoor digital signs.