| Religious Freedom Ranking:
3.5 out of 5 stars: Needs Improvement
Switzerland is not a member of the European Union. Despite this, they have close ties with other EU countries, and in 2005 Switzerland gave support to the Schengen and Dublin agreements. It is the only nation in the world that uses direct democracy.
Switzerland has a population of 7.6 million people. According to the country’s 2000 census, 41.8 percent of the population is Roman Catholic, 35.3 percent is Protestant, 4.3 percent is Muslim, 1.8 percent is Christian Orthodox, and 11.1 percent claim to possess no formal creed. Other religious groups that constitute less than one percent of the population are Old Catholics, other minority Christian denominations, Buddhists, Hindus, and Jews. The Muslim and Jewish population have been rising recently due to an influx of immigration. This has led to some incidents of discrimination towards these people.
Freedom of religion and creed are guaranteed by the Constitution of 1874. The constitution specifically states that children of all religious beliefs may attend school without being affected in any way in their freedom of creed or conscience. The Jesuit order is banned in Switzerland and Jesuits may not perform any religious activities in churches or schools. The constitution allows the same ban to be extended to other religions.
The Swiss government maintains a Federal Service for Combating Racism. This group has supported many projects to combat anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.
Foreign groups, by law, are free to proselytize, but new legislation has severely restricted this. Missionaries are required to obtain “religious worker” visas, and have to meet strict requirements to qualify. The courts have ruled that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) do not meet these criteria, and are banned from obtaining these visas effective 2012.
In 2009, 57.5 percent of voters supported a ban on construction of new minarets. The legislation passed, despite opposition by majorities in both the parliament and the Federal Council. In 2010 the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly adopted a recommendation to repeal the ban because it discriminates against Muslims. According to the New York Times, the right wing Swiss People’s Party wrote the ban. This reflects the anxiety many Swiss feel towards the growing Muslim population.
There is no single state church for all of Switzerland, but most individual cantons support one or more churches with public funds. Citizens may choose to refrain from paying a tax to contribute to church funding. In some cantons, businesses may not exempt themselves from paying a church tax.
Switzerland maintains the rights of those established religions that it recognizes. The government has adopted a hostile attitude, however, towards new religious movements. It has refused to allow the Unification Church to register as a religious organization. The government considers the church to be a dangerous sect and has published a travel advisory warning Swiss citizens who are visiting San Francisco to beware of Unification Church recruiters. Unificationists in Switzerland have had to register as an association rather than a church. In one case, a family associated with the Unification movement lost their apartment. In the past, church members have been subjected to deprogramming.
2011 US State Department International Religious Freedom Report on Switzerland
Switzerland - New World Encyclopedia
Switzerland Country Profile- BBC News
Swiss Ban Building of Minarets on Mosques- NYTimes.com