Update: 08.04.2008

No exemption from swimming lessons in school

The High Court of Schaffhausen ruled in December 2007 that a request by a Muslim father of two sons (4th and 5th grade) to exempt them from mixed swimming classes was to be denied. With this decision the Court knowingly went against the Federal Court's ruling from 1993 (BGE 119 Ia 178fff.).

The Court cited the changed situation in Switzerland, in particular the increased danger of a social disintegration and of religious fundamentalism as reasons for its decision, but also that gender equality and the integration of foreigners in Switzerland have been legislated and must therefore be given priority. 

It is interesting that the Court used «integration» as an argument against granting the exemption request, since the Federal Court in 1993 argued that it would actually further the integration of the family concerned, if their request was granted. 

In both decisions it was necessary to strike a balance between the freedom of religion and the duty to attend compulsory school classes. The judgement in Schaffhausen follows the change in practice of the cantonal education department not to allow exemptions based on religious convictions. The Federal Court will have to comment on this judgement. 

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