Nancy Holten, 42, applied for a Swiss passport in the municipality of Gipf-Oberfrick, in the Canton of Aargau. The town of some 3,500 rejected Holten's application by a vote of 203-59, on grounds that she lacked respect for Swiss tradition.
Holten has become a minor celebrity for her activism. She campaigned against cattle being made to wear cowbells, claiming that the bells are too heavy and cause the animals pain and discomfort.
"The sound that cow bells make is a hundred decibels," she said. "It is comparable with a pneumatic drill. We also would not want such a thing hanging close to our ears."
Holten has campaigned against hunting, pig racing, and church bells. She describes herself as a journalist, model, and drama student. "I think I spoke my mind too often, and I say it out too loud," she told The Local, in reference to her rejected application. "Many people think that I am attacking their traditions. But that was not what it was about, it was never about that. What primarily motivated me about the cowbells was the animals' welfare."
"This really is my home. I grew up here and feel very attached to Switzerland," she said. "I have friends and relatives here. I have worked here and take part in social life here. I was even on the parent committee here at the school a few years ago."
Urs Treier, a spokesperson for the local government, stated that the community does "not want such a person in their midst," which is why they had Holten's application rejected, despite her meeting the legal requirements. "Nancy Holten very often expresses her personal opinion in the media, and also gathers media coverage for rebelling against traditional [Swiss] things within the village."
Holten was born in the Netherlands, but moved to Switzerland as a child. Her children are Swiss nationals, but decades of residence does not guarantee Swiss citizenship. She had previously applied in 2015, but was rejected by residents then as well.
The case has been transferred to the Cantonal government, which can overrule the local decision if they choose. Switzerland has unorthodox and stringent naturalisation laws that are often decided by cantons or towns, instead of the federal government. Would-be Swiss citizens must demonstrate "familiarity with Swiss habits, customs and traditions" according to a 1952 law.