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'It can't be wrong to sing O Holy Night': minister

Published: 27 Nov 2012 07:10 GMT+01:00

"There's no reason to protect our children from our traditions and our cultural heritage," Social Minister and Christian Democrat leader Göran Hägglund told the TT news agency.

Hägglund's comments come in response to guidelines issued by the National Agency for Education (Skolverket) designed to help school principals find a balance between Sweden's secular and religious traditions.

"The law stipulates that Swedish schools are non-confessional," the agency's Anna Ekström and Claes-Göran Aggebo wrote in an article in Dagens Nyheter (DN) on Sunday.

"That school is non-confessional means that there can't be any religious elements such as prayer, blessings or declarations of faith in education. Students should not have to be subjected to religious influence in school."

But Hägglund disagreed, arguing there is nothing wrong with having Swedish school children sing traditional hymns during Advent services or at graduation ceremonies, another annual occasion which prompts questions about how much religious influence should be allowed in Swedish schools.

"I'm tired of having this discussion two times a year. It has to be okay to sing a hymn in connection with something as solemn as a graduation ceremony," the minister told TT, going on to invoke a Biblical citation from the book of Matthew.

"The National Agency for Education is straining out gnats and swallowing camels."

According to Hägglund, Swedish students have bigger things to worry about than "singing O Holy Night one time a year".

"If the National Agency for Education now interprets the Education Act so strictly, I think we ought to consider changing the law and make an exception for these types of traditional ceremonies," said Hägglund.

Education Minister and Liberal Party (Folkpartiet) head Jan Björklund agrees.

"You should absolutely be able to sing hymns in church at school graduations; pastors should be able to read the Christmas gospel, refer to the Bible, and explain why we celebrate this Christian holiday," Björklund told TT.

He added that the agency's interpretation of the Education Act "set boundaries which are too strict", arguing that Advent services are "part of our cultural heritage".

"If this ridiculous debate continues year after year, I'm ready to review the Education Act," said Björklund.

TT/The Local/dl

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Your comments about this article

08:40 November 27, 2012 by skogsbo
I wonder if all those who think it wrong won't be with their families at Xmas and will be hard at work on the 24,25 and 26th... I very much doubt, it's all very selective and sad. A mosque can tannoy out, but kids can't sing? The kids who don't want to be involved can go and read some other religious book in the library! All is equal then.
08:55 November 27, 2012 by Kevin Harris
What is the only country in the world where it is illegal to sing hymns in a church?
09:21 November 27, 2012 by Achilles7
Sweden now prides itself as being seen as a type of ultra-liberal, post-modern utopia, void of any real culture of its own but rather universally embracive of everyone and everything. The result is a confused mess, where nobody really quite feels like they belong, and nobody knows quite who they are and where they are.

Sweden, you are a great country with a lot to be proud of. Grow some balls and assert your culture before it's too late.
09:43 November 27, 2012 by Keith #5083
The thing that is absurd here is not 'protecting children from indoctrination', that is admirable enough, what is absurd is that the school has 'advent' services!

Trying to seperate religion from the term 'advent' is like trying to seperate mustard from korv (sausage).

So just allow participation to be optional, a personal choice, just like 'is it mustard or ketchup you want on it?'

Incidentally, support Malala :-)
09:46 November 27, 2012 by Achilles7
Sweden now prides itself as being seen as a type of ultra-liberal, post-modern utopia, void of any real culture of its own but rather universally embracive of everyone and everything. The result is a confused mess, where nobody really quite feels like they belong, and nobody knows quite who they are and where they are.

Sweden, you are a great country with a lot to be proud of. Grow some balls and assert your culture before it's too late.
10:20 November 27, 2012 by RobinHood
'It can't be wrong to sing O Holy Night'

Oh yes it is Mr Hägglund! And it is your government that has allowed this loopy law to stand. Call yourself a Christian Democrat? Just plain old Democrat would be a better description. A proper Christian Democrat would have rewritten the legislation years ago.

As for the priests, who have for years been giving church services to schoolchidren, without singing hymns nor mentioning the Saints, Jesus nor God. Shame on you. What would Jesus, the Saints and Martin Luther have done? Christians have a long tradition of standing up to religious oppression - and suffering for it. A bunch of sandal wearing, bearded education professors from Uppsala are nothing compared to the Romans. This Christmas tell them where to stick their wierdo religious phobias, wish them a merry fxxcing Christmas, and give an old-school fire and thunder service about the fires of Hell. Then have a cup of tea and wait for the police to arrive.
10:49 November 27, 2012 by gumbojinx
As a child I went to a catholic school, despite the fact that my family were not religious. The school also educated some Jews and Muslims. The school still continued with it's tradition of catholic services but those children of other religions were given the option to opt out of these services. I don't really understand why this is not an option in this situation.

I do agree with others here who state that trying to take religion out of advent is an absurd proposition.

The school also offered the option to opt out of religious studies, though I didn't opt out as they offered comparative theology, which at the time I found interesting.

I see no reason why children of different religions cannot be educated side by side, but with just a little common sense.

Personally though I would rather see education and religious education kept seperate, especially if that religion believes in 'intelligent design' over evolution.

Just to state it again though, taking religion out of a religious festival is absurd....
15:21 November 27, 2012 by Jes
Only an uncouth wicked wonker would find a problem with singing a hymn . If it is alright in Sweden to screen " Fråga Ola" pornographic show at 10 , why is it so terrible for some children to be provided with the opporunity to sing a religious song ?

Also , I think that the fellows from Skolverket are simply displaying their personal complexities
15:43 November 27, 2012 by bob_arctor
If our religious minister is tired of having this debate twice a year, maybe he should consider the fact that there is separation of church and state in this country. The fact that some people just wont give way to reason (and the needs of the children) reveals something larger: Sweden is not as progressive as it usually is portrayed as.

/Currently supporting the rights of my children to go do something more constructive instead of being herded into the past
01:13 November 28, 2012 by JoeSwede
the idea is that twice a year, kids are shown traditional Christian singing. I think that is reasonable given that taxes are so high that parents find it difficult to send their kids to a Christian school. Also for those that aren't very religious, twice a year is fine so the only ones offended are those that want a strict line between church and state.... but even there the church has been stripped of its power and influence by the Swedish state so there is no line to draw.
02:05 November 28, 2012 by Enjoyourlife
Soon they would convert your children to islam
09:48 November 28, 2012 by smilingjack
11

no they will educate children that everything written in religious texts is rubbish. we all evolved and werent created.

they will push medieval fairy tales back where they belong - in the houses of those silly enough to believe in them and out of society as a whole. that includes christianity, judaism, islam, buddhists, mormons and scientologists. its all lies and has no place in an education system.

its been a hard slog but in australia my children have finally been isolated from those lunatic christians endlessly trying to shove their fairytales down our throats. it took the threat of legal action against our secular PUBLIC school and gates on our property with a bugger of lunatics sign. no we DO NOT want to hear about easter or christmas. They are the chritians fairytales. not ours.
11:06 November 28, 2012 by Spuds MacKenzie
What a shame that Sweden, once known for things such as its beautiful people and

Lutheran traditions, now imports tens of thousands of ugly people and its main religion is Islam.
14:05 November 28, 2012 by Jes
What "ugly" people ; like Zlatan you mean ?
11:03 November 29, 2012 by clearandpresenttruth
Ahh, Swedish Integration...

The Svensk kultur is sadly vanishing, no thanks to the religion of peace.
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