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No vote Valais lawmakers reject attempt to ban school headgear

Several cantons have debated whether religious headgear should be worn in schools or in public


A proposed vote on whether to ban items worn on the head in schools has been declared unconstitutional in one Swiss canton. Politicians in canton Valais have vetoed a thinly veiled attempt to ban religious headwear, such as hijabs, among pupils.

The decision on Friday triggered a heated backlash from the local faction of the conservative right People’s Party, which had attracted more than 4,000 backers for its proposal in 2016. This amount of backing automatically triggers a vote, according to Swiss law. However, the cantonal parliament on Friday declared that vote unconstitutional.

+ Read more about the original proposal

After the parliament’s decision, People’s Party representatives stormed out of the cantonal parliament building in southwest Switzerland, threatening to take the matter to the federal courts.

But it is debatable whether this would meet with much success. Two years ago, the Federal Court ruled that the local authorities of St Margrethen, in eastern Switzerland, could not ban hijab head coverings, arguing that wearing a headscarf was not an obstacle to effective teaching or learning.

The issue of wearing face-covering religious headwear has stirred up plenty of political and social debate in Switzerland in recent years. Canton Ticino voters banned such headgear in public places in 2013. And last month, canton St Gallen banned the burka under certain conditions.

In addition, a group of rightwing politicians is trying to bring about a nationwide headgear ban in Switzerland.

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