Health and Lifestyle

Baptism ban on Lake Geneva enrages evangelicals – Health and Lifestyle News – Report by AFR

The Swiss canton of Geneva has banned baptisms organized by evangelical churches in Lake Geneva – a decision they branded a “witch hunt”.

The canton — made up of the city of Geneva and its hinterland that forms the western end of the lake — took the move on July 8 amid debates over secularism.

“This is an abuse of office,” Jean-Francois Bussy, president of the Evangelical Federation of the neighboring canton of Vaud, told AFP.

Baptisms in Lake Geneva are permitted in Vaud, which covers the rest of the north shore of the lake.

“We have no complaints in the canton of Vaud, which is much more liberal on this level than Geneva, which I think applies fundamentalist secularism and a fairly despicable witch hunt,” said Bussy, who heads the Vaud section of the Swiss Evangelical Church network in western Switzerland with around 40,000 members.

Among the 26 cantons of the Swiss Confederation, Geneva and Neuchâtel are the only two cantons that are secular. The separation of church and state has been enshrined in Geneva law for more than a century.

However, Geneva is famous for welcoming the French theologian Jean Calvin in 1536, who made the city a bastion of the Protestant Reformation and whose statue stands on the old city walls.

“Baptism is a religious service,” Geneva authorities said, while the canton has “established the principle that religious events take place in private settings,” excluding the shores and public beaches of Lake Geneva.

“Only organizations that are allowed to maintain relations with the state can apply for a permit for a public religious event” – and the two evangelical congregations concerned are not among them, the authorities added.

To be included on this list, organizations must commit to eliminating physical or psychological violence, emotional abuse, and discrimination based on ethnic or national origin and sexual or gender identity.

According to Bussy, “it is not entirely clear what prompts the cantonal authority to ban events that do not violate public order,” which is a “peaceful example of praiseworthy religious practice.”

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