Communities recognized in the courts of Italy
We have some wonderful news to share! A recent decision made by the Turin Court of Appeals in Italy serves as an important step forward for the legal recognition of communities. For several years, we have been working on this theme with Italian communities and the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) Europe. For the first time, a court in Italy has acknowledged that a community is not a business and therefore is not subject to traditional labor laws.
Some time ago, a former citizen of Damanhur sued the community, claiming that she performed subordinate work as an employee of Damanhur while she was living here for about 10 years. She had participated fully in community life, using her skills to help Damanhur grow, and in turn, enjoying the benefits of the facilities and services, as is the norm in community life. From our point of view, instead of doing subordinate work as an employee, she was contributing to the growth of the community, as stated in our Constitution. While the lower court agreed with part of Damanhur’s argument, the Court of Appeals fully sided with us, upholding Damanhur’s entire argument in this precedent-setting lawsuit.
In the initial lawsuit, our argument was partially accepted, recognizing that the former citizen received fair compensation for her work, but measuring the situation with traditional labor regulations. In the appeal however, the lower court ruling was overturned, upholding our argument that there is no subordinate work in community, even if compensated: those of us who live in community decide how to invest our time and energy, with motivations other than just money. In expressing the motivation of the verdict, the fourth article of Damanhur’s Constitution was quoted: “Work has spiritual value and is understood as a gift of oneself to others. Through it, everyone takes part in the spiritual and material activities of the people.”