In April 2018, the government of Geneva introduced rules designed to protect religious freedom and preserve religious peace, known as laïcité, or secularity, laws. Laïcité is enshrined in article 3 of Geneva’s constitution, which requires the state to be secular and separate from religion. In Switzerland, religion is a cantonal matter.
Geneva’s parliament voted 63 to 25 in favour of these new laws, with 3 abstentions, according to RTS.
A cantonal initiative, which recently collected 8,319 signatures, more that the minimum 7,480 required, aims to reverse these laws which they deem discriminatory.
In Geneva, discrimination appears to mean different things to different people.
The main point of difference seems to relate to dress code.
The laïcité laws allow people to hold any belief, but place limits on how they are expressed in formal public life. This is aimed at ensuring public institutions are religiously neutral to ensure peaceful coexistence.
The legal changes, which came into effect in April 2018, mean anyone working for public institutions, such as schools, public administration or government must refrain from wearing religious clothing or symbols while on duty and in contact with the public. And, no-one can cover their face in a public building.
Those supporting the latest laïcité law changes think allowing religious clothing and symbols in public institutions will lead to religious friction and discrimination.
Those behind the initiative opposing them think these dress code restrictions are discriminatory. They think limiting what public-facing state employees can wear will penalize some groups, particularly women, rather than prevent discrimination.
No date has been set yet for the vote.