A canton in Switzerland has voted to tighten the rules on facial concealment in public spaces. Many thanks to Ava Lon for translating this article from the Basler Zeitung:
St. Gallen [a canton in eastern Switzerland] moves towards a burka ban
July 14, 2017
In the cantonal council of St. Gallen, there is a tightening of the prohibition on total concealment. Dispensations at schools will also become more restrictive.
The canton of St. Gallen is about to ban concealment of the face — for example, by a burka — in the public space in general. This is requested by the Advisory Committee of the Cantonal Council. The government had opposed such a ban.
In September the Cantonal Council of the canton of St. Gallen advises an amendment of the Volksschulgesetz, which, among other things, provides for dress codes. The impetus for this was given by several motions. The Pre-Advisory Committee recommends the proposition and broadly supports the government’s proposals, as the canton announced on Friday.
The Commission is calling for a tightening of the ban on facial concealment. “That’s how it is,” confirmed Commissioner Linus Thalmann (SVP) [Schweizerische Volkspartei, Swiss People’s Party] at the request of the news agency SDA. In the communiqué, the ban is immediately effective.
Evaluate each individual case
Anyone wearing a facial covering in a public space is to be punished with penalties as long as the person “threatens or endangers public security or religious or social peace”. Whether such a threat or threat is present should be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
How this should work practically, Thalmann did not say. This must then be discussed in the cantonal council. The Commission’s intention is to implement the will of those who made the motion.
The government had opposed a general burka ban last April. There was no public interest in it, she argued. Instead, the government wanted facial coverings to be removed during any contact with government employees and the authorities.
Dress codes in the school
The government also wants to codify the rules on clothing at public schools — but only in a general sense: the duty of schoolchildren to “dress correctly” should be an obligation for schoolchildren. Clothes should not endanger undisturbed instruction or school peace.
The Education Council should formulate specific clothing regulations. In addition, the school communities may adopt supplementary regulations. It would not be permissible to have a headscarf ban in class [i.e. a headscarf would be acceptable in class]. At the end of 2015, the Federal Supreme Court ruled that such a prohibition was inadmissible in the case of a pupil from St. Margrethen SG (canton St Gallen).
Restrictive in dispensations
With another new clause in the public school law, the government wants to grant the schools authority. Dispensations of individual subjects — for example swimming lessons — for religious reasons are to be granted more restrictively in the future.