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Läderach had suffered attacks against its shops and boycott calls by political parties. The reason is the founding family’s support for the March for Life and their Christian views on marriage and family.
A chocolatier business has been targeted by radicals in Switzerland for the Christian convictions of its owners.
Läderach has been producing premium chocolate products for more than 50 years and employs around 700 people in Switzerland and other countries around the world. The chocolatier has 60 shops and is one of the biggest employers in the Alpine Canton of Glarus.
The founder of the business, Jürg Läderach, an evangelical Christian, is also chair of the non-profit group Christians for Today (cft), whose vision is to “protect and support of Christian values according to the model of the Bible”.
ATTACKS ON SHOPS
Radical groups started to publicly aim against Läderach in autumn, after discovering that Christians for Today was one of the 14 groups that co-organise the annual March For Life, which in its 2019 edition gathered 1.200 people in Zurich in defence of the life of children with Down Syndrome. Only 3 hours after the event, one of the shops of Läderach in the city was attacked with paint.
Some days later, in the city of Basel, another shop of the company was vandalised, this time with butyric acid. Firemen had to take action and the store had to close two days to remove the stench.
According to regional newspaper Sued Ost Schweiz, the attackers anonymously explained their action on social media, arguing that “through its gains, Läderach finances right wing nationalist and Christian fundamentalist ideologies”. They even went as far as to say that the company, which has a policy of only working with 'fair trade' cocoa, did so to continue a “post-colonial and racist heritage”.
Even some political actors joined the narrative of the radicals. The youth branch of the Socialist Party, the second political force in the Swiss parliament, called to join the boycott against Läderach and organised actions in front of its shops to denounce the company’s alleged “fight against the rights of homosexuals and women”.
“NO ONE AT LÄDERACH IS HOMOPHOBIC”
In the last months, Läderach has reported seven acts of vandalism against its stores. The company’s CEO, Johannes Läderach recently called to guarantee freedom of expression, because “it’s not acceptable that employees have to live in fear”.
“No one at Läderach is homophobic – neither the management nor the staff”, he said in an interview with leading Swiss newspaper NZZ translated by SwissInfo. “We have homosexuals working for us. We don’t ask about it. Läderach has a zero-tolerance policy regarding discrimination”.
Asked about his Christian views, the businessman, aged 33, said he respected those who say the right of a women to end a pregnancy is more important that the right of a child to live, but expected the same degree of tolerance for his own ethical views. “Because I fight for the unborn life, I’m accused of misogyny. But I’m not a misogynist – 60% of our managers are women”, he added.
“I don’t want to stop fighting for my Christian values just because we’re having success as a company (…) Ultimately what counts is not how much profit we make but whether we stand by our convictions”.
SWISS AIRLINES DROPS THE CHOCOLATIER
But the pressure of LGBT groups has not only caused a controversy in the media but led to financial consequences.
It has now been known that the most well´-known airline of Switzerland, Swiss Airlines, which offers chocolate as a gift to passengers, broke the contract with Läderach in November. The transport company owned by the Lufthansa Group will stop offering the company’s products by April 2020.
A spokesperson of the airline admitted that they were worried with the bad press associated with the media debate around Läderach, and cited complaints of both clients and employees.
This victory of LGBT and other radical groups, has helped bring their crusade beyond the Swiss boundaries. In Germany, where Läderach has a dozen of stores, the Federation of Lesbians and Gays has already suggested that “hotels and restaurants could decide to retire the products of the Läderach from their assortment, and clearly explaining why”.
EVANGELICAL ALLIANCE: “WORRYING” INCREASE OF CASES
Evangelical Focus asked the Swiss Evangelical Alliance about the repercussions of this case. Communications Director Daniela Baumann responded by saying that it is “worrying” that “even in this country the cases in which religious freedom is openly questioned are on the rise”.
There is a need, Baumann added, to “reflect on how to draw attention, in an adequate way, to the growing intolerance – and even violence – with which Christians who hold on to certain values and opinions, such as the protection of life, are faced with”.