Geneva politicians exempted from religious symbols ban

Geneva politicians exempted from religious symbols ban
Photo: Depositphotos
A Geneva court ruled Tuesday that parliamentarians in the Swiss region could wear visible religious symbols like the Muslim headscarf, exempting them from a "secularism law" adopted by popular vote in February.

Geneva's Court of Justice said in a statement that its Constitutional Chamber had decided to exempt parliamentarians from the ban on public employees wearing visible religious symbols, because they “do not represent the state, but society in its plurality.” 

“Imposing total confessional neutrality on the legislative bodies” would be “harmful to the democratic principle,” the court found. It also ruled that imposing such a level of religious neutrality would be akin to preventing “people who display their religious adherence from acceding to an elected mandate.”

The decision comes after more than 55 percent of voters in the Swiss canton in February backed the controversial new secularism law.

Prior to that vote, the right-leaning cantonal parliament adopted the text, which also had the backing of Geneva's three main religious communities, the Protestant Church, the Roman Catholic Church and the Old Catholic Church.

But the far left, the Greens, feminist organisations, unions and Muslim groups all opposed it, claiming it was discriminatory and warning it might violate the constitution.

They collected enough signatures to force the issue to a public vote.

After the vote, the constitutional chamber received six separate appeals demanding that the law be revoked.

Tuesday's ruling only impacts parliamentarians in Geneva.

Other protests were overruled, and other public servants will still be banned from visibly wearing religious symbols.


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