Swiss Court: Ban on religious services violates freedom


Central Europe


A church in Rougemont, Switzerland. photo EPA, Peter Schneider

A Swiss court has ruled the total ban on religious services under anti-Covid measures violates religious freedom.

The Swiss government already suspended the imposed measure in December, but the final judgment came last week. The Court confirmed the measure as a violation of the fundamental right to religious freedom. In its decision, the Court reasoned that the ban was disproportionate, even with its limited exemptions for marriages and funerals. Less restrictive measures would have been possible while still protecting public health.

Doctor Samuel Sommaragu, who contested the ban, is satisfied with the result: “I am happy to be able to celebrate this victory for religious freedom”, Sommaragu said, according to the Portuguese radio station Renascença. The doctor, who is combating the pandemic, says that spiritual care is also essential, besides physical and mental health.

“Switzerland has a good track record in protecting the religious freedom of its citizens. It is a poster child of democracy and human rights. This made it worrying to see a total ban on all religious gatherings and events”, says Steve Alder, the lawyer who filed the case, to conservative advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom. He is delighted with the ruling. According to Alder, the Swiss Court took a firm stand on protecting the human right to religious freedom.

Both Jewish and Christian communities gave their support for the lawsuit. The ban on worship services was part of the Swiss Covid-19 measures. All religious gatherings except funerals and weddings were banned. Other public gatherings, however, such as demonstrations, were allowed to take place.



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