Journal Article

Switzerland: Freedom of creed and conscience, immigration, and public schools in the postsecular state—compulsory coeducational swimming instruction revisited

Johannes Reich

in International Journal of Constitutional Law

Published on behalf of The New York University School of Law

Volume 7, issue 4, pages 754-767
Published in print October 2009 | ISSN: 1474-2640
Published online October 2009 | e-ISSN: 1474-2659 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/icon/mop029
Switzerland: Freedom of creed and conscience, immigration, and public schools in the postsecular state—compulsory coeducational swimming instruction revisited

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Switzerland's model of power sharing in a multiethnic society—assimilation of the “new minorities—public primary schools—social cohesion versus cultural distinctiveness—Muslim students and compulsory swimming lessons—unconstitutional according to Swiss Federal Supreme Court decision in 1993—reconsidered by the Court in 2008

Given its constitutional framework and political culture, Switzerland offers an example for the gradual inclusion of minorities resulting in a distinctive model of power sharing in a multiethnic society. However, global migration with its “new minorities” entails a fundamentally different challenge. Public primary schools, which are attended by virtually all children residing in Switzerland, thus face the difficult task of providing both for equal opportunities for all children and for social cohesion via a clearly defined educational agenda. This must be achieved at the same time the state respects the distinctive cultural and religious background of each student. The question of whether Muslim students should be obliged to attend compulsory swimming lessons in public primary schools has been widely discussed in both the legal and political arena after a decision by the Swiss Federal Supreme Court in 1993 found such an obligation to be unconstitutional. With a case decided on October 24, 2008, the Court was given the opportunity to reconsider the issue. This paper critically assesses this recent decision by the Swiss Federal Supreme Court in its social, political, and dogmatic context.

Journal Article.  5893 words. 

Subjects: Constitutional and Administrative Law ; UK Politics

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