The medical passport becomes mandatory for all worship services with an attendance of over 50 people.
Protecting hospitals and returning to some kind of normality are the two reasons given by the Swiss authorities to justify a new restriction to worship places, namely the introduction of a Covid-19 passport control for events attended by over 50 people.
The restriction means that many local churches are now asked to control the access of attendants and make sure attendants have the official document that proves they have been vaccinated against the virus, have recovered from an infection, or have tested negative.
The Association of Free Churches in Switzerland (Freikichen) responded to the implementation of the measure on 13 September with disappointment. “Visiting a church service is something elemental for Christians. It is an individual but also communitarian and spiritual experience”.
The medical pass may bring more “security”, the association says, but affects the “personal decisions” of citizens. “We have encouraged people to get vaccinated” but “we respect” the personal election of every citizen, they add. “We are focused on the proclamation of the healing message of Jesus, and on worship services in which we experience God and strive to his liveable presence in the community”.
Talking to the authorities, the group of Swiss Free Churches had asked for alternative solutions which could improve security without excluding people. Ideas such as open-air services, multiple services, and rooms with live streaming, were put on the table.
[photo_footer]A paper version of the Swiss Covid-19 certificate. / Swiss Health Ministry
In contrast with the perspective of most evangelical churches, both the mainline Protestant Reformed Church (EKS) and the Roman Catholic Church in Switzerland have supported the new restrictions in religious activities, as they prioritised the “growing figures of infections” across Switzerland.
What all Christian denominations agree is that funerals and farewell ceremonies should allow all people without restrictions. “The opportunity to mourn and say farewell together is an essential element of personal and social coping with crisis situations”, the EKS has said.
Netzwerk Kirche und Corona (Network Church and Corona), which brings together theologians from diverse Christian confessions in Switzerland to analyse the Covid-19 crisis, has also been critical with the national authorities. According to this group, local church communities are not legally entitled to control Covid-19 certificates, and a Christian perspective gives not the option of banning someone’s access to a church service only because they do not have such a medical certificate.
The network has even said it would seek financial help for churches who are fined by the authorities for not implementing the new Covid-19 certificate restrictions.