Vote for this guy

Valentin Abgottspon was a teacher in the Swiss public school system. He was fired because he removed a state-mandated crucifix from the wall of his classroom. It’s weird; apparently, the Swiss constitution requires religious neutrality, but the local canton thinks tradition trumps law.

Anyway, he’s up for a prize, the Prix Courage, which is apparently going to be determined by the result of an internet poll. You know what to do! In principle, at least: the poll is in German, so you might need some guidance.

Vote for the Prix Courage, a very prestigious Swiss prize for outstanding actions: (choose Valentin Abgottspon, “Ich will an der Verlosung teilnehmen.*” choose “Nein”, that means you don’t want to win a week-end in a Swiss hotel, that way you won’t have to write down your name, then “Senden”)

Of course, maybe you want a weekend getaway to a Swiss hotel…also, as usual, always look over the other candidates and vote your conscience. I think going against religious dogma and losing your job over it is a great example of courage, though.

Vote here.


  1. says

    Anyway, he’s up for a prize, the Prix Courage, which is apparently going to be determined by the result of an internet poll.

    Because internet polls are the best way to get to the truth.

    How did we even know anything prior to the internet?

    Glen Davidson

  2. shakrilege says

    Unfortunately, I don’t think he deserves the prize as much as some of the other nominees. Standing up for separation of church and state is impressive, but Andreas Roth stood up to a wild bull to save his neighbors.

  3. Beatrice, anormalement indécente says

    I disobeyed and voted for Zarina Bried (the woman who fought for better working conditions for hotel cleaners). Honestly, in the company Abgottspon has on that list, he’s actually one of the last ones I would vote for.

  4. says

    Alas, it is not that clear what the Swiss constitution says on that topic. It is true that it stipulates that everyone is free to believe or not to believe what he or she wants. But as far as I know it does not impose on the Cantons (states) religious neutrality for the school system. The Canton where I grew up for example explicitly mandates an education “in a Christian, humanist and democratic tradition” (if you read German see here) and I am sure there are plenty of others which do so too. There was also a case before the supreme court where a teacher who converted to Islam was prohibited to wear the headscarf while teaching. The court argued that it was because the canton embraced laïcism explicitly for its school system. Ironically this means that she probably would have been allowed to wear it in a canton without such a neutrality clause.

    However, the case Abgottspon certainly merits the attention of the wider public in Switzerland and he showed important courage, especially considering that he was teaching in a very conservative and catholic canton.

  5. says

    I confused – because google translate (which we know is, therefore correct) says:
    Zarina Bried
    publicly fought for better working conditions for cleaners.
    a portrait

    I, too, support militant cleaners. What do I do?

  6. matt says

    “I saw Valentin speak in Oslo at the launch of the International Association of Freethought. He has taken a strong stand for secularism that deserves our support – please vote for him” – TS

  7. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    Here’s the (google translate) description of the hotel:

    The observer raffled among the participants in the election for public price two nights for two people in the Hotel Castell in Zuoz, surrounded by world class architecture, contemporary art, cuisine and wellness in the hammam and the Pacific between brasserie.

    Who wouldn’t want to be surrounded by cuisine and wellness in the hammam?

  8. Kichae says

    Just remember, voting in this poll might be considered a hate crime, since your honestly held opinions are inherently hate filled. Expressing them when publicly invited to do so is oppressive!

  9. Ibis3, féministe avec un titre française de fantaisie says

    I debated between voting for the woman, who, after a violent attack fought for victims’ rights and the one who fought for better working conditions for cleaners. Some of the other nominees were quite impressive too (the high altitude rescue, facing down a wild bull). Fighting for secularism and losing your job over it is commendable as well. Tough choice.

  10. Spiny Norman says

    Lobbying for a good cause is commendable, but if there’s no risk it’s not brave. Risking your life is braver than risking your job. That narrows it down to 3 real choices, but I’d go with Robert Schönbächler. His story isn’t as dramatic but he knowingly made a violent enemy, while the danger has passed for the helicopter pilot and the bullfighter.

  11. Horse-Pheathers says

    Kichae @12 —

    Uh………what? There seems to be a little context missing here. That, or you’re smoking some _really_ good shit.

  12. Phalacrocorax, not a particularly smart avian says


    I think Kichae was being sarcastic. Kind of a parody of this.

  13. René says

    Really, this guy is named Abgottspon?? I now want to know what Pon or Spon translates to.

    I side with Beatrice, BTW.

  14. Snowshoe the Canuck says

    The ex-teacher got my vote. It was a tough choice, even with Google Translate.

  15. Compuholic says

    Wow what a hard choice.

    I agree with some of the other commentators that there are other people that in my opinion deserve the price more. In the end I didn’t vote for the person that I think deserves the price the most because in my opinion they all deserve one. I voted for the person where I think my vote makes can make a difference.

    It was a hard choice between the cleaning lady, Abgottspon and the guy who helped a wife escape her violent husband. All these issues deserve ongoing public attention.

  16. Blattafrax says

    There’s people in that list that risked their lives to directly help others. For me that’s a bit braver than making a political point.

    Maybe the horde should follow PZ’s advice here, consider all the candidates and vote for the one they consider the most deserving.

  17. WhiteHatLurker says

    Thanks to PZ for bringing the poll forward. His choice is interesting, but as others have said there are more deserving candidates.

    I voted for Nicole Dill.

  18. says

    The vote is for the 10,000 Swiss francs “Audience Award”, not the Prix Courage which is apparently decided by the jury composed mostly of previous winners. 10,000 Swiss francs is about $12,900 US.

  19. Tony says

    I have to agree with several other commenters here that defending secular education is important, others took direct action that displayed courage.

    I was torn between the man who saved his neighbor life from the raging bull and the man who saved the women from her violent ex-husband, eventually voting for the latter.

  20. says

    As your faithful minion I voted your conscience.
    I mean my conscience.
    I mean, I don’t speak German so I clicked on a familiar pattern of letters.

  21. says

    It’s weird; apparently, the Swiss constitution requires religious neutrality, but the local canton thinks tradition trumps law.

    It’s not really that weird, is it? I mean, the US constitution prohibits a religious establishment, but that doesn’t stop school boards, city councils and state legislatures from acting as if that doesn’t apply to them (despite the 14th amendment saying it does). It sounds like it’s pretty common for people to assume that their local norms trump anything else.

  22. dave1924 says

    Is Abgottspon speaking Swiss in his video or is that Hochdeutsch with a Swiss accent? I honestly couldn’t tell it was so hard to follow.

  23. says


    He is speaking Swiss German. More precisely he talks in the dialect of the Canton of Wallis (“Highest Alemannic German“), which sometimes can be tough even for native Swiss German speakers (not him though).


    As I have written earlier: It is even less weird considering that the Swiss constitution does not ask for the separation of state and church (actually it opens with “In the name of God Almighty…”).

  24. TrineBM says

    The Swiss have skeptics too: Denkfest Zürich
    Any other Pharyngulas coming to this skeptic-fest in Zürich? I’ll be there Saturday-Sunday and would love to meet other pharyngulites. I’m looking forward to a lot of these speakers, but especially Lawrence Krauss who’ll be there Saturday morning.

  25. Monika says

    All candidates were incredibly brave!
    I voted for the cleaning woman, her employer tried to shaft her badly and she was brave enough to fight.
    The teacher got my vote too, it’s hard to stand up against a very conservative community. And the Kanton Wallis is dragging it’s heels.

  26. plien says

    I voted for the cleaning lady. Allthough it was a very hard choice, most of them need to be awarded. :-)

  27. mercurialsunshine says

    Those are some seriously impressive people. I suddenly feel the need to do more with my life!

  28. says

    @TrineBM #35

    I’ll be there. Send me a mail if you want to meet up (follow the link on my blog, go to “Kontakt”).

  29. says

    I voted for the ex teacher. Dealing with a sudden violent situations is not as courageous as deciding to take on a public rebuke and going through with it after extended time to make your decision. In an urgent situation there is no time to think, you react. I know, I’ve been there. Having time to think and opportunities to convince yourself to stand down but choosing not to is very brave.

  30. Dave, the Kwisatz Haderach says

    I do hope the Beckians (Beck-ers, Beckites?) are watching. PZ links a poll, suggests a poll result to vote on, the horde arrives… and votes for different people. You’d think we were actually thinking for ourselves or something.

    Of course, that would mean we all voted against ID and creationism without having to be told what to think, and that would just blow their tiny minds.