Atheist Bus Ads Hit Snag in Lucerne, Switzerland September 22, 2009

Atheist Bus Ads Hit Snag in Lucerne, Switzerland

The infamous (and original) atheist bus ad will be put up in Switzerland next month:

It’ll be everywhere… except in the city of Lucerne.

Reader Gavrilo translates (because Google didn’t do a good job of it):

Rico de Bona, the person responsible for the infrastructure of the city, said, “Ads from an organization that motivates people to leave the church will not be tolerated here” (personal translation). This is pretty shocking in Switzerland.

The city will probably be sued. Even within the government, most of the people are for the ads.

This sounds like something you’d see in America. I thought Switzerland was cooler than us.

What gives?

(Thanks to Gavrilo for the link!)


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  • Stephen P

    There are some very conservative areas in Switzerland, so it doesn’t surprise me that this would happen somewhere. I would have expected it somewhere more rural though, like Appenzell or Graubünden, rather than in a city. But it may just be one person inflicting his opinion on others. We’ll see.

  • Switzerland, as with Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, and Sweden have what is called a church tax where members of some religious congregations are taxed (by the state) and that money then sent to the congregations. Perhaps “they” take offence to any advertisements to get people taken off the religious membership rolls.

    At least in the very religious United States, the state has kept out of the tithing business. (Except for social conservatives trying to sneak tax-payer dollars supporting this or that religious cause).

  • Think of it this way: It will be everywhere except in one city. In the U.S. the case would be that it’s in one city except anywhere else.

  • Valdyr

    You know how Neapolitan ice cream is a big tasty mix of vanilla, strawberry and chocolate? Switzerland is the same thing, only with Italians, French, and Germans. With the name “Rico de Bona”, you can probably guess which flavor these complaints are coming from.

    But hey, at least Italy isn’t as Catholic as Poland…

  • Erp

    Switzerland can be conservative. Remember women didn’t get the vote there until 1971.

  • cathy

    “Even within the government, most of the people are for the ads. ” Sounds like this is just one wacko in a position of power.

  • The Other Tom

    Valdyr: First of all, I’m highly offended by your racist remark and as a German American I demand an apology. You want to see German belligerence? Fine, here it is. Your remark was pure bigotry, apologize at once.

    Secondly, I’ve been to Luzern, with Germans, and trust me, the Germans don’t think the Swiss “Germans” are German. The Swiss “German” language is even unintelligible to Germans and normal German speakers. (By contrast, after a few years of high school German I could understand Dutch just fine if they spoke slowly.)

    I found the people of Luzern to be somewhat insular, unlike anywhere I visited in, say, Germany or Austria. The young people I met refused to speak German with me – I know for a fact that they’d had to pass courses on it and could speak perfect high German with me if they wanted to, but if I spoke it to them they’d cheerfully pretend they couldn’t understand me (funny, all the Germans thought I was a native speaker) so I had to resort to English, which they all also spoke and were somehow willing to deal with. A little. (They’d understand me, but pretend not to be able to reply in English.) All of the elderly people I met (shopkeepers, etc) I couldn’t communicate with at all, because I couldn’t speak their language, they wouldn’t speak German with me or acknowledge that they could understand me, and they were old enough to have not been schooled after the requirement to learn English was put in place.

    It’s Switzerland, so I expect the courts will make the local government behave. However, I’m not surprised that if this was going to happen, it happened in Luzern.

  • Valdyr

    Valdyr: First of all, I’m highly offended by your racist remark and as a German American I demand an apology. You want to see German belligerence? Fine, here it is. Your remark was pure bigotry, apologize at once.

    Uh… I honestly can’t tell if you’re kidding or not. Either way, my provisional reply is contained in this image.

  • Miko

    You should distinguish culture from politics. All (non-anarchistic) politics is conservatism, since all politicians want to conserve their power. As such, most countries tend to suck politically regardless of the cultural mores of the people. The U.S. actually has a leg up in the political area, since we have laws making most forms of politics illegal; the only problem is that we leave the enforcement of these laws to the politicians and as such they’re ignored 99% of the time.

  • Tina

    Wow! Something I actually have lots of insight in! As a returned expat having lived in Switzerland for a year, it doesn’t surprise me at all.

    The swiss (all 3 types (swiss-german, swiss-italians, and french-swiss) are pretty afraid of people who are not like them. Atheists included. They are xenophobic and are constantly voting on immigration issues to protect themselves. I am sure this extends and applies to religion or lack thereof.

    Jeff: You can opt out of the religious tax if you say you don’t belong to a church!

    They don’t tolerate mosque minarets either!

  • The Other Tom

    Valdyr, yes, I’m completely serious. How would YOU feel if you couldn’t even mention your grandmother’s nationality without somebody immediately talking about her as a nazi?

    The fact that people immediately start talking about nazis when anyone mentions Germany is racism, pure and simple, and I’ve had it with that behavior and am no longer willing to quietly tolerate it. The war ended 64 years ago. Most of the people involved are dead. Contemporary Germans are not only not militant, but actually were recently found to have the biggest sense of humor in the world. Get over it, you bigot.

  • Tenorino

    Well, Tina, thanks for painting all swiss people (of which I’m one) with a very broad brush!
    If I wrote : “Americans (regardless of their ethnicity) are religious bigots and war mongerers” what would your reaction be? 1 year living anywhere certainly can give you a certain insight, but maybe not to the extent which you apparently believe to possess…

    As for Lucerne, like much of central Switzerland, it is very strongly catholic (guess where many Swiss guards in the Vatican come from… ) so this decision may not be very surprising, but please also read the following excerpt (my own translation, since Google’s is pretty pathetic):

    For city council member David Roth (SP) De Bona’s decision is unacceptable: “You can see religious ads in this city – there is an urgent need for equality.” If necessary he will file an appropriate motion.

    And finally, The other Tom, where did Valdyr mention nazis? His reference to Poland was about it being an ultra-catholic country , not about the start of WWII… so much for having “the biggest sense of humour in the world”…

  • Valdyr

    Valdyr, yes, I’m completely serious. How would YOU feel if you couldn’t even mention your grandmother’s nationality without somebody immediately talking about her as a nazi?

    The fact that people immediately start talking about nazis when anyone mentions Germany is racism, pure and simple, and I’ve had it with that behavior and am no longer willing to quietly tolerate it. The war ended 64 years ago. Most of the people involved are dead. Contemporary Germans are not only not militant, but actually were recently found to have the biggest sense of humor in the world. Get over it, you bigot.

    What the fuck are you talking about? Not only did I not mention Nazis–actually, no one has except you–I didn’t even mention Germans at all, except to say that they’re one of the three predominant ethnic groups of Switzerland. I wouldn’t have expected stating that to be any more offensive than saying the Earth’s atmosphere is comprised mainly of nitrogen and oxygen.

    Furthermore, I’m not a bigot against any group, least of all Germans–I’m taking German language classes right now, as it happens. If anyone has cause to be offended, it’s me for being slapped with the label of racist, completely out of nowhere.

    And what’s this about your grandmother? When did I say anything about anyone’s grandmother?

    I keep re-reading my post and I can’t find anything that could be remotely construed as offensive. Seriously, could you BE any crazier right now?

  • This sounds like something you’d see in America. I thought Switzerland was cooler than us.

    Switzerland is cooler in some ways, but has its own special problems in others. The one thing to remember is not to try to imagine that there’s some sort of linear ordering of national coolness. 😉