Children cannot be exempted from compulsory swimming lessons at school even for religious reasons, the Federal Court has ruled.
In making the ruling, announced on Friday, the court overturned its own decision of 1993.
The case was brought by the father of two primary schoolchildren in the northern canton of Schaffhausen, who wanted permission for his sons to opt out of swimming classes. His request had been turned down at every level before failing at the federal court too.
In the 1993 case the court had ruled that it was permissible for a schoolgirl to be exempted from mixed swimming lessons.
It justified its change of position by saying that society had changed in the past 15 years. Exempting children from compulsory lessons would undermine efforts at integration.
The president of the relevant court said the judgement was not aimed against the Muslim community or against freedom of religion. It was designed to help schools fulfil their task of integration.
The judges voted three to two in favour of the decision.