In Switzerland, hardly any scientific research has existed to document the presence, significance and conflict potential of religious signs and symbols worn and displayed on public buildings. In particular, Christian crosses, the Jewish menorah or kippah, Islamic head and body coverings, pictorial representations of God or saints, as well as small pendants with religious significance worn on the neck are considered as such. The study prepared by the Swiss Competence Centre for Human Rights (SCHR) in cooperation with the Working Group for Empirical Research on Religion (AGER) at the University of Bern closes this gap and provides clarity to this often controversial topic. The study is based on an analysis of social science and legal literature, legislation and case law, and empirical surveys of academics, members of religious groups and employees of various authorities.
The social science surveys have shown that conflicts over religious signs and symbols are settled without legal proceedings in over 90 per cent of cases. Legal literature, legislation and jurisprudence also show that these disputes seldom reach an extent that requires judicial clarification. Pragmatic solutions are better than rigid rules. The study goes on to say that if legal proceedings are nevertheless necessary, conflicts over religious symbols and signs can be resolved with the existing regulations and with the help of federal court practice. It therefore concludes that there is no need for legislative action.
The Federal Office of Justice commissioned the SCMR to prepare the study after the National Council adopted the postulate Aeschi 13.3672 ("Clarification of religious issues") in December 2013. This called for a report by the Federal Council on the presence, significance and conflict potential of religious signs and symbols worn and displayed on public buildings. The Federal Council's report was published on 9 June 2017.
Worn and Attached Religious Signs and Symbols on Buildings. Empirical and theoretical foundations. Synthesis report on the Aeschi postulate (13.3672), Walter Kälin, Stefan Huber, Karin Mykytjuk-Hitz, Reto Locher, Nora Martin, Bern, 1 July 2016 (PDF, 123 p.)
Federal Council media release of 9 June 2017 (Link)
Federal Council report of 9 June 2017 in response to the Aeschi postulate (PDF, 25 p.)