In Switzerland, the ban on baptisms in Lake Geneva revives debates on secularism


Evangelical circles denounce a "witch hunt" following a decision by the canton of Geneva on July 8 prohibiting baptisms organized by two local parishes in the waters of Lake Geneva, reviving debates on secularism.

"It's an abuse of authority," denounces Jean-François Bussy, president of the Evangelical Federation of the neighboring canton of Vaud, where baptisms are still authorized, to AFP.

“We have had no complaints in the canton of Vaud, which is much more liberal at this level than Geneva, which in my opinion applies fundamentalist secularism and a rather detestable witch hunt”, accuses the president of this branch of the Network. Swiss evangelical, which claims about 40.000 members in French-speaking Switzerland.

Along with Neuchâtel, Geneva is one of only two secular cantons in Switzerland: the separation of Church and State has been enshrined in law there since 1908.

Geneva is nevertheless famous for having welcomed the French theologian Jean Calvin in 1536, who will make this city a high place of the Protestant Reformation, and whose monumental statue still stands under the walls of the old town.

“Baptism is a cult”, indicate for their part the cantonal authorities, while the canton “has established the principle according to which the religious event takes place on the private domain”, excluding the shores and public beaches of Lake Geneva.

"Only organizations admitted to have relations with the State can request that a worship religious event be authorized on the public domain", and the two evangelical parishes are not part of it, they add.

To appear on the list, these organizations must in particular undertake to exclude acts of physical or psychological violence, spiritual abuse as well as discrimination on the basis of ethnic or national origin and sexual and gender identity.

Mr. Bussy acknowledges that some evangelical parishes resorted "two or three decades ago" to "conversion therapies", which claim to cure homosexuality and are being banned in several cantons.

“It has nothing to do,” he argues, adding that the Swiss evangelical network “has positioned itself very clearly against it. »

According to him, “we do not know very well what motivates the cantonal authority to prohibit demonstrations of this style which do not contravene public order”, constituting a “peaceful example of a commendable religious practice. »

The Editorial Board (with AFP)

Image credit: / godongphoto / Baptism at Lake Geneva in Switzerland, January 10, 2010

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