Court rules night-time church bells can continue in Swiss town

Church street: the bell-tower in Wädenswil at the centre of the case Keystone

The Swiss Federal Court in Lausanne has ruled in favour of a church near Zurich that wants to continue ringing its bells throughout the night. The verdict overturns previous local rulings in favour of the complainants, a couple from the town.

This content was published on December 13, 2017 - 14:51 and agencies

In a case that could set a precedent for other church-bell practices around Switzerland, the Federal Court decided against the recommendations of the local court in Wädenswil, which had upheld the complaint of two disrupted town-centre residents.

The couple backed their case with a scientific study carried out by the federal institute of technology ETH Zurich, which carried out a test to show that noise of the bells reached 48 decibels when the windows were slightly ajar. Levels of 40-45 decibels can be disruptive, the study said.

+ Read the background to the Wädenswil case

+ Church bells in Switzerland: joyful or disturbing?

The tradition of the Protestant church in Wädenswil is to ring the church bells every 15 minutes, through the night. An initial claim by the couple, as well as a follow-up appeal case, reduced this frequency to once every hour.

On Wednesday, however, a majority of judges deemed the ETH study, and the couple’s case, not to be significant enough to change existing case law for such occurrences.

The city council, who supported the church’s case, welcomed the result. Some 2,000 people had also signed a petition demanding a return to the traditional quarter-hour ringing.

The case echoes others in recent years, including those of Bubikon and Gossau (both also in canton Zurich), whose churches were also allowed to continue ringing as normal, after court cases.

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