New Policy Will Ban Non-EU Missionaries in Switzerland Beginning in 2012

December 2010 – Geneva

A group of United States senators and representatives joined in mid December 2010 to call upon Switzerland to allow missionaries from outside the European Union to continue working in Switzerland after a de facto ban on such activity takes effect in 2012. A decision by the Swiss courts has established that missionary work is gainful employment and is therefore subject to quotas, in accordance with regulations stemming from a 2002 bilateral accord on the free movement of people between Switzerland and the European Union. This agreement allows European nationals to seek employment in Switzerland while significantly restricting work permits for people from all other countries. The ban would have particular relevance for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon), whose history in Switzerland dates back to 1850. The first Mormon temple outside North America was completed in Zollikofen in 1955.

In an interview with World Radio Switzerland and for the Salt Lake Tribune, Robert Smith, managing director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at Brigham Young University, said he does not see in the Swiss move any effort to target Mormon missionaries. Rather, this “is really an employment law issue. It has to do with how to regulate the inflow of immigrants. The catch is that they have ruled that missionaries are employees and therefore subject to immigration restrictions.” The basic idea for the Swiss government, Smith said, is “to treat all religious groups equally.” Even if the government were “inclined to allow missionaries from one church to come in, they would be concerned that they would have to be fair to all.”