Mormons, U.S. officials seek way around Swiss missionary restriction
December 16th, 2010
11:55 PM ET

Mormons, U.S. officials seek way around Swiss missionary restriction

By Kelly Marshall Smoot, CNN

Because of changes in Swiss immigration and labor laws, the Mormon church and other religious groups soon will be unable to send any non-European missionaries to Switzerland.

But Mormon leaders and some U.S. government officials are hoping to find a way around that change in policy.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints officials issued a statement on Tuesday saying Mormons have "a long history in Switzerland dating back to 1850. We hope a solution can be found that allows missionaries, regardless of their country of origin to serve the Swiss people."

A group of 13 Mormon members of Congress, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid drafted a letter in August asking Swiss officials to reconsider their decision, especially as it applies to Mormon missionaries.

"We earnestly petition the Swiss government to reconsider this decision and to work with us and the LDS Church to find a solution which would permit LDS missionaries to continue to perform their missionary service in Switzerland as they have done since 1850," states the letter from Sens. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho; Orrin Hatch, R-Utah; Robert Bennett, R-Utah; and Reid, D-Nevada; and nine members of the House of Representatives.

The Swiss ambassador in Washington, Urs Ziswiler, said in response to the letter that the ban is the result of a 2002 change in Swiss immigration and labor laws that makes it easier for European nationals to find work in Switzerland and harder for everyone else, including missionaries.

Since 2008, missionary work in Switzerland is "considered as being for gainful employment," Ziswiler said, even though LDS missionaries are not paid for their time or service.

Norbert Baerlocher, the spokesman for the Swiss Embassy, on Thursday explained that the law does not apply just to the Latter-day Saints, but to any religious group that wants to send non-European missionaries or religious caregivers to work in Switzerland. Swiss courts decided that missionary work is "almost always linked to money, and therefore you have to have a working permit."

Baerlocher said the number of permits is decided by the Federal Council of Switzerland and that the number of permits can vary depending on the economic situation inside Switzerland. If the nation has high unemployment, it might reduce the number of permits, but can increase the number to meet the demand for labor during an economic boom.

Though not part of the European Union, Switzerland has made bilateral agreements with the EU that allow freedom of movement for Swiss and EU citizens. Immigration rules will keep out non-European missionaries, but churches can send as many missionaries as they want, as long as they are Swiss or from the EU, Baerlocher said.

According to church records, Switzerland is home to almost 8,000 Mormons and the Bern Switzerland Temple, the oldest LDS temple outside North America, which was completed in 1955. There are 100 Mormon missionaries currently serving in the Switzerland Geneva Mission and 171 missionaries in the Alpine-German Speaking Mission, though not all of them work in Switzerland because the mission boundaries overlap several different countries in the area.

The church was only able to send 80 non-European missionaries to Switzerland this year, it is limited to 50 in 2011, and none will be allowed into the country starting in 2012.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Church and state • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints • Europe

soundoff (131 Responses)
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    December 14, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  3. Synthol

    Probably your greatest article on here..

    November 20, 2011 at 8:52 am |
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    November 14, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
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    October 26, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
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    May 31, 2011 at 5:12 am |
  7. fred

    do they have any poligamust in switserland.they ott to try it its great to sleep with young girls but you need a big bottle of viagra then you are ready for a good time

    March 6, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  8. fred

    i wonder if the swiss would let them send some of there illegal mexicans over on missions.they could preach during the day and work for the swiss at nite cheap

    March 6, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  9. fred

    i admire the swiss gov,,hope they stick to it.article said 8000 members in switserland,after a 160 years they aint converten very well to the marman church..i been lookin for one of them rocks like old joe had to put in my hat,hell it might even make your hair grow.but if i had me a rock like that i could start me a church and get a bunch of young girls for wieves

    March 6, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  10. edw

    Just for fun I read through these comments. I have personal experience with most of the issues discussed, and I feel like I have just gone down the rabbit hole in a yellow submarine on a tour led by Douglas Adams and Timothy Leary. Most of the comments are so bizarre that I have decided that I have accidentally slipped into an alternate reality. I would correct the many misstatements but what do I know about your reality? Perhaps in your universe these arguments make sense. Now, based on what I have read here I expect a flurry of personal attacks. Unfortunately I won't be here to enjoy them as I am heading back to my universe where I will have a difficult time describing what your world is like. Thank you though for an amazing trip that can normally only be experienced through inappropriate pharmaceutical use.

    January 1, 2011 at 5:00 am |
  11. ADW

    @reality & peace- You talk of sources and quotes yet you provide only anti mormon websites and comments. A source is only respected when it is valid and yours isn't. Should I attack western civilization because a terrorist website says its evil, or maybe we should be racist because the k k k have a website too. You have both had bad experiences with LDS and religion but so bad that you just sit on CNN waiting to attack those that disagree? I agree there are some pretty lousy mormons just like there are lousy catholics, baptists, methodists, etc...but there is good and good people in those religions too. Why do you have so much hate for something that helps people in their own personal ways? Disagree but don't disrespect.

    December 20, 2010 at 12:22 pm |
  12. Casey

    Nothing in here says the Swiss won't allow missionary work to continue, just non-European missionaries. As for the many comments on the south park episode being 'all you need to know' yeah, um, if South Park is your standard of truth refer to the episode where they proclaim that "Mormonism is the correct answer" I choose to not have south park be my exclusive source of information but if I did I would be forced to acknowledge that Mormons believe some goofy things but they are absolutely the correct religion and church.

    December 20, 2010 at 2:00 am |
  13. Rick Jackson

    The Swiss, always been the icon for freedom, is now restricting freedom. But then maybe the U.S. should take a lesson from this latest chapter of history and restrict all imports to put America back to work... No more Swiss Watches and Swiss Knives. And while we are at it, We should sell a bushel of U.S. grain to other Countries at the going rate for a barrel of Crude Oil.

    December 19, 2010 at 9:34 pm |
  14. Shawn

    I'm a mormon and I say that Switzerland can do whatever they want. Why make a big stink about it. We all have the right to make whatever decisions we want.

    Basically whether you beleive in a God or not is up to you. Just love everyone. You don't need to believe in God to be a good person. We should all be that best that people that we can be.

    December 19, 2010 at 9:41 am |
  15. NeverAgain

    Lived in Mormon-HQ Utah for some time. First I found my LDS neighbors to be very caring and honest people. Once you get to know them a bit better you see their arrogance, hypocrisy, and self righteousness. I don't mean to generalize. I found them to be very sad as well, almost depressed. In my opinion, Mormonism is a sect, a cult. Once you're in, they won't let you think for yourself. They're brainwashers. It's sad. I'm sure the Swiss have nothing against their beliefs. But somehow I'm glad this fraud of an American religion will not make more victims throughout the world.

    December 19, 2010 at 8:10 am |
    • Guill

      Right, Mormons are people with weaknesses also. We are taught not to be prideful... Because, like everybody else, we are. We are taught to be kind to our neighbors... Because often we aren't. And so on. Mormons are just like everybody down here: we strive to become better people but often fail.

      December 29, 2010 at 2:31 pm |
    • boriswart

      Brainwashed! Ha Ha very funny. Is that the only way you can explain the growth of the LDS faith? With 13 millions world-wide, that would be a lot of brain-washing. Maybe if the 'sect' as you call it were limited to a small community with little interaction with the rest of the world I could buy it. But this is a world-wide religion that has major universities and such. That would have to be the mother of all brain-washing. It is amazing to me that such a thoughtless knee-jerk idea could be so readily believed by you non brain-washed folks.

      May 28, 2011 at 1:43 am |
  16. Robert

    Surely the LDS church can come up with the number of missionaries it needs from throughout the EU. Why even try to fight it? If it truly is a world-wide religion, and not an American one, then let the world supply the church with the missionaries it needs in Switzerland. Seems simple enough.

    December 18, 2010 at 2:21 pm |
  17. bobby

    I guess switzerland is now the new promised land! im going to move there starting 2011.

    December 18, 2010 at 2:05 pm |
    • JO

      Enjoy!!! Hopefully that means one extra job and one less wacko in the U.S.

      January 15, 2011 at 3:08 am |
    • boriswart

      I guess your idea of 'promissed land' has somehow to do with segregation. Seems you have something in common with the likes of KKK

      May 28, 2011 at 1:34 am |
  18. Terry - Indiana

    At the end of the day, it all comes down to your God, family, friends, and church. You may not like Mormons, perhaps you do not know Mormons, but trust me, you want your children exposed to acts of kindness and support, always present in these children. Maybe it is nothing more than a strong family value system.

    December 18, 2010 at 8:09 am |
    • Scott

      I remember back in high school the Mormon kids were always the most represses and abused.

      December 19, 2010 at 9:31 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.