Swiss Court Suspends Geneva’s Ban on Religious Services

The challengers to the ban on public worship in the Swiss canton of Geneva. | ADF International

Churches in Geneva can now reopen after a court in Switzerland suspended the canton’s total ban on religious services and events which was introduced on Nov. 1 to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The Swiss Constitutional Chamber of the Canton of Geneva is yet to decide whether the ban is a violation of the right to freedom of religion after a group of concerned citizens filed a legal challenge against it. But the suspension “indicates that the ban is not proportionate and means that religious services and gatherings are now permitted until a final judgment is handed down,” the Christian legal firm Alliance Defending Freedom International, which supported the case, said in a statement.

“The Chamber indicated that the likelihood of the case ultimately succeeding is “high or very high,” added the legal group, which has offices in Geneva.

The canton’s Nov. 1 COVID-19 order banned all religious gatherings other than small funerals and weddings. Other public secular gatherings, including demonstrations and professional choir practices, were allowed to take place, however.

The Chamber noted that the canton failed to demonstrate that places of worship had contributed to any COVID-19 outbreak.

“Given that other public gatherings are still permitted, we do not see the proportionality of this restriction — it targets religious groups in a discriminatory way,” Samuel Sommaruga, on whose behalf the legal challenge was filed, said, according to Catholic News Agency. “That is why we decided to challenge it in court.”

Switzerland has had nearly 345,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with more than 5,300 deaths, as of Sunday, among a population of 8.5 million, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Research Center.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Anugrah Kumar