Should we keep religion and state separate?
This debate is part of Battle of Ideas Zurich.
The Social Democratic Party of Switzerland (SP) wants to give official state recognition to Islamic religious communities. It would, they say, help to integrate Muslims into Swiss society by tailoring an ‘Islam for Switzerland’, one compatible with the demands of Swiss culture. If this demand were to be implemented it would mean that Islamic religious bodies would have the right to collect taxes, provide pastoral care in hospitals and prisons and for members to enrol in state-funded university courses to study to become an imam. However, the proposal comes with strings attached. In return for state recognition, Islam would have to guarantee things like the maintenance of equality between men and women, organise its institutions democratically, commit itself to preaching in support of secular rule in Switzerland and much more.
Yet the fact is that Switzerland is an increasingly secular society, in which religious worship of all sorts is in rapid decline. Although Roman Catholic and Protestant churches are recognised by the state, many believe they should now separate from the Swiss state. Others support the maintenance of existing arrangements and merely disagree with this latest proposal because they claim that Islam has no place in Swiss society.
But is it really the job of the state to tell any religion what to think and preach or to use social engineering to integrate minorities by manipulating religion? Should we just continue with the status quo or extend to Islam the same special privileges currently enjoyed by other faiths? Indeed, is there any justification at all for any religion, even Christianity, to be recognised and funded by the state in the predominantly secular twenty-first century?
Please note this debate is in German