Inquiry confirms improper behaviour of former Protestant leader

Locher was an outspoken leader of the church after taking over in 2011. Keystone / Anthony Anex

The former president of the Swiss Protestant Church, who stepped down in May 2020, has been found by a church inquiry to have had an abusive relation to a colleague during his mandate.

This content was published on August 4, 2021 - 18:05

Gottfried Locher violated the sexual, spiritual, and psychological integrity of the woman, said a committee set up to look into the claims.

The president of the committee said that Locher’s relations with the woman were abusive: “the messages [between them] were contradictory, and the personal and professional relations were not clarified”.

The woman had come forward with accusations of “overstepping boundaries”; other women made similar claims after this. On Wednesday, the committee said that after its discussions with witnesses, all elements all “in the same direction”.

The committee also said it regretted Locher’s decision not to collaborate with church authorities on the case.

Locher stepped down from his role in May last year, after 12 theologians published an open letter expressing misgivings about his behaviour.

Locher, who was named president of the Protestant Church in 2011, saw the accusations as part of an orchestrated campaign against him. He had a reputation as a charismatic leader, but his outspokenness was also divisive.

Locher’s successor, Rita Famos, said she was glad the complaint had been dealt with conscientiously, and that nothing should be swept under the carpet. She apologised to the woman who made the accusations.

The committee of inquiry also made some 17 recommendations for reform within the structure of the Protestant Church, to avoid such cases happening again in the future.

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