The canton of Geneva takes the separation of state and religion, or laïcité, seriously. Article 3 of Geneva’s constitution, states that the government and its institutions should be secular, religiously neutral, not pay clerical salaries or subsidise any religious activity, while maintaining relations with religious communities.
In 2016, the canton’s public schools were sent a leaflet explaining laïcité in schools.
Against this background, there were strong reactions to an email sent to the directors of the canton’s public secondary schools suggesting school timetables be adjusted to accommodate the muslim month of fasting.
According to the newspaper Le Temps, the email, sent by the canton’s child health service department (SSEJ) on 18 May 2018, was entitled: Recommendations in the event of fasting during school hours – this year, the fasting period runs from 15 May until 14 June.
The email warned of the risks of fasting and recommended schools exercise tolerance towards children suffering from hypoglycemia and dehydration. In addition, it recommended organizing school camps and trips outside the fasting period, and showing tolerance towards those struggling with physical exertion, according to the newspaper.
Jean Romain, parliament’s president, said that management of the department didn’t do its job and there’s no chance politicians would let this slide. Religion must neither govern nor regulate the public domain. We have a law on laïcité, apply it!
The SSEJ said the email had not been properly approved and accepted the error, according to Le Temps.