Switzerland to Replace 'Psalm'-Like National Anthem With a Secular One

Switzerland announced a national competition this week that will search for a new national anthem to replace its current one, which government officials say has too many references to God and is too old-fashioned.

"The real problem is above all the text," said Lukas Niederberger, who is part of the Swiss Society for Public Utility (SGG), the completion organizer in charge of looking for a new anthem.

"Officially the anthem is a psalm, a prayer, but of course we have an open society, religiously neutral. We have atheists, no single god, so this anthem is a difficulty," he told BBC News.

The "Swiss Psalm," as the current anthem is called, was composed in 1841 and is heavy with references to God. Parts of the English-translated lyrics go: "When the morning skies grow red,/ and over us their radiance shed/ Thou, O Lord, appeareth in their light/ when the alps glow bright with splendor,/ pray to God, to Him surrender/ for you feel and understand/ that He dwelleth in this land."

Niederberger said that the aim of the competition, which will run from January to the end of June 2014 and offers a top prize of over $10,000 is to come up with a text to reflect values found in the Swiss constitution, including democracy and solidarity.

The winner will be selected from a 25-member judging panel, which will come from various areas of national life, sports, music, literature and yodelling.

According to a 2010 Census, 38.6 percent of the Switzerland population identified as Roman Catholics, while 28 percent were part of the Swiss Reformed Church. Still, those identifying with no religion made up over 20 percent of the population, and in 2000, only 16 percent of Swiss respondents to a national poll said that they find religion to be "very important" for their lives.

"Many people are conservative and the anthem is emotional, but if a composer creates a super song, then we can change the tune too. But that's a bit difficult for conservative people, so we say the contestants don't have to change the music," Niederberger added.

SGG has said that the constitution needs to be used in forming the text for the new anthem, which it says speaks of "living together in mutual consideration and respect for differences."

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