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'Religious Freedom Is a Human Right': Swiss Court Suspends COVID Ban on Worship

Image Source: Adobe Stock
Image Source: Adobe Stock

Geneva's Christian community is celebrating after a Swiss court suspended a ban on religious worship and events.

The Constitutional Chamber of the Canton of Geneva issued the order on Dec. 3 following complaints from distraught locals who said the ban was a violation of religious freedom, Catholic News Agency reports.

The ban started on Nov. 1 as a measure to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. However, the court pointed out that authorities could not prove how churches were responsible for outbreaks of COVID-19 within the area. 

Attorney Steve Alder, who filed the suit, said the mandate was one of the most extensive public restrictions on religious assemblies in Europe. He pointed out that the ban was unjust because the city allowed other public gatherings to occur.

"Enforcing it is a violation of the right to freedom of religion as protected in the Swiss Constitution and by international human rights standards," Alder said. "It disproportionately targets the activities of religious groups over commercial activities."

He added, "With multiple religious groups in Geneva voicing their concerns over the disproportionality of the ban, we hope that the authorities will ultimately agree on a solution that protects everyone's right to practice their religion in line with international law."

And Jennifer Lea with the non-profit religious freedom law firm, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) International, called the suspension "a significant step in the right direction."

"Religious freedom is a fundamental human right and governments seeking to restrict it carry the burden of proving the restriction is truly necessary and that a less restrictive approach would not work," she said. 

"Favoring commercial establishments over religious services is not only discriminatory but ignores the robust protection that exists in national and international law for religious freedom."

The Catholic Church in Geneva advised that attendance for public Mass would be limited to 50 people, required use of facemasks, and social distancing.

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