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Swedish school scolded for prayer readings

Peter Vinthagen Simpson · 15 Apr 2010, 11:23

Published: 15 Apr 2010 11:23 GMT+02:00

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The agency has criticised the municipal school for breaching requirements to conduct non-confessional teaching after a report from a parent of one of the children at the school.

"It is stressed that all parents should [...] be able send their children to school, safe in the knowledge that their children will not be affected unilaterally in favor of one or other particular viewpoint," the agency wrote in its report.

According to the parent, the situation arose after the closure of Kuttainen school in the summer of 2009. The pupils, many of whom belong to the small conservative Lutheran revival movement Laestadianism, were then moved to Karesuando.

The parent told the agency that the pupils in her child's class have since been holding half-hour prayer and psalm-reading meetings during class time, and in the company of a teacher. The school has not informed parents of these activities, the woman claims in her report.

Kiruna municipality confirmed that psalm readings and prayer had occurred, varying from daily, to twice weekly, to weekly depending on the class. Karesuando school claims that the activities were part of statutory religious studies education but has agreed to cease the practice.

Swedish education legislation dictates that the various religions are taught equally as part of the curriculum, although Christianity has traditionally taken greater priority over the other world religions.

"Activities in public schools may not be designed so that students are exposed to influences, such as to get them to embrace a particular religious belief. It is therefore important that the school is diligent when it comes to the teaching of subjects where objectivity is of the utmost importance," the agency writes.

Laestadianism is a conservative Lutheran revival movement which was started in the middle of the 19th century and is named after the Swedish-Sami botanist and preacher Lars Levi Laestadius.

Story continues below…

The deeply conservative faith broke into three branches - The Firstborn Laestadianism, Reawakening, and Conservative Laestadianism - in the beginning of the 20th century and is characterised by Pietistic and Moravian influences.

Laestadians are taught to refrain from rhythmic music, hair dye, alcohol, make-up, wearing ties, TV, birth control, and pre-marital sex, and are the largest revival movement in the Nordic countries. In Sweden they are thought to number 10,000 - mostly found in the north of the country around the Torne Valley.

The group has long been a part of the Church of Sweden but have come into conflict in recent years after the church gave its blessing to same-sex marriage.

Peter Vinthagen Simpson (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

13:11 April 15, 2010 by Audrian
Religion is one of the potent creations of human kind. Marx called it the opium of the masses. It distorts the mind and prevents rational thinking! It is difficult to hold a rational dialogue with religious people. I hope the Christian fundamentalist will not show a comeback in Sweden as in the US. I do not remember anything good that religion has done to humankind in history or the present time.
13:17 April 15, 2010 by LailaC1
Religion should be kept out of any classroom and only be "taught" at home if that is what parents want.
13:26 April 15, 2010 by Flappytango
i wonder if the parent complaining had their child baptised or plans to have them go to confimation.
13:31 April 15, 2010 by broxcris
I have been for a long time an agnostic. Studies of science theories at school, indecent Church history in the past and in the present and itchy interests towards girls school mates has kept me out from religion. But if you stretch a cover in a wood this summer and you spend a morning looking at flowers around you and doves and swallows upon your head you will realize, as me, that to assert we here for accident is absurd. "This word is in order. There must be and Order for sure" (Socrates)
13:36 April 15, 2010 by cbeynch
What is wrong with Christianity teachings in schools? The entire Swedish system of justice, culture and values is based on Christianity which has served her extremely well until about 10 years ago. Christian fundamentalism of the U.S. model could only be a positive in Sweden, and maybe able to reverse the moral monster that Sweden has become today. And to use Marx as a reference point is insulting. His alternative, socialism, has no fundamental principles, that can measure up to Christian values. Instead teaching Christianity should be brought back to the Swedish educational system, which today can only be deemed a corrupt moral sewer. I also respectfully disagree with LailaC1. Christianity must be taught in schools. It is as least important as civics and art.
13:50 April 15, 2010 by broxcris
Sorry, I wanted to write: "This world is in order. There must be and Order for sure" (Socrates)
14:22 April 15, 2010 by xenyasai
@cbeynch: Are you saying you are unable to know morality without religion? What about the morality of the Catholic priests we are reading so much about who love young boys? Impressive role models for morality; not really.

If you are unable to know what is ethical and moral without religion, you are clearly a lost cause and a person lacking common sense.

Christianity alone has nothing to do in schools. Want to learn about Christianity? Go to church on Sunday. Learn about religion at school? Only from a historical viewpoint, and that you include all mythologies.
14:29 April 15, 2010 by cbeynch
xenyasai; Yes, that's essentially what I'm saying. As for the few catholic, stray, priests, fire and brimstone upon them. I have nothing left over for them. They are a scourge that must be obliterated. But in the interest of promoting ethics and solid moral, Swedish, values, I firmly believe we must promote Christianity by making it mandatory in schools. Socialism, obviously, never did the trick. Look at our society today. It's a cauldron of vice, corruption, and multicultural dissarray.
14:31 April 15, 2010 by Nemesis
Religeon needs to be kept out of schools.

See this link for facts on what happens when religeous people are allowed in Schools.

14:42 April 15, 2010 by Puffin
The law is very clear in Sweden - religion is discussed as part of the national curriculum in class - but during school time it is not allowed to have particular acts of worship that exclude those who are not followers of that particular faith. All lessons must be open to all faiths.

The complaint came about as a result of a school child telling school inspectors during a routine inspection that he was excluded because of these prayer lessons.

Most religious communities hold their youth groups after school so I cannot see why prayer meetings needed to be held in school time.

It sounds as though there are problems at this school as it has been criticised 3 times in the last 18 months by the school inspectors
14:43 April 15, 2010 by farnoxo
@Nemesis and others

Damned (excuse the pun) right. Religion MUST be separated from the state, the legislature and education. The place for religious education is in the home, and it should used to indoctrinate and terrify school children with archaic and irrelevant themes of heaven and hell. Sweden is - quite rightly - a secular nation and should strive to uphold secularity in all public spheres of life. I do not want to live, nor do I want my children to live in a society where they are exposed to the irrational rantings of conservative bible bashing christians or fundamentalist Wahabbi muslims.

1-0 to the Swedish state on this one.
15:30 April 15, 2010 by enlightened
@broxcris #6

There might be some order to the universe. I cannot dispute that. I do not know the nature of this order but I can tell you one thing for sure. Virgins do not give birth, one cannot teleport from Mecca to Jerusalem on a magic carpet and there are no such thing as chosen people or promised land.
15:41 April 15, 2010 by Kevin Harris
Religion (any religion) offers good guidance about how to behave in certain situations. Too many kids grow up today in an ethical and moral void. My kids (allegedly Christians) have only a vague idea about new and old testament stories, many of which are excellent roadmaps for life. I am sure other religions have an equally rich database of stories worth telling and learning from. My three "Christians" know more about Hulk Hogan and Britney Spears than Moses and Jesus. I have absolutely no objection to someone telling them stories about Muhammed, Jesus, Buddha or even L Ron Hubbard, if that will make them better people than they already are. Many of the old testament stories are cracking good yarns that (properly told) would brighten the day of any bored school kid. I bet the Koran has some good ones too. Isn't there some way we can get them back into Swedish schools without breeding religious biggots? I am sure there is, if we can get past the socialist dogma.
16:11 April 15, 2010 by calebian22
I am one of those fundamentalist bible bangers, but right on for Sweden on this one. Historical information about religion is sufficient for schools.
17:03 April 15, 2010 by Nordic Prince
@LailaC1 #2

I partially agree with you.

However, I believe that Religion should NOT be taught in schools nor home. Whoever wants to learn it, s/he may go to the library and read books about it or go to Churches, Temples or Mosques.

Also, since The-Local already predicates that "Swedish population to top 10 million in 2021", who knows...maybe Muslims constitute 20% of the population. Then, teaching Christianity in schools will open the door for other people to argue and request that they should teach Judaism, Buddhism, Islam (Sharia)...etc and I guess if Sweden said 'NO' , then, we will be criticized so badly by the international community and will be compared to Saudi Arabia.

I wonder when people will ever learn what is the meaning of 'Freedom'...

@Kevin Harris #13

"Religion (any religion) offers good guidance about how to behave in certain situations."

Obviously, you are mixing up "Good Morals/Manners" with "Religion".

- A human being DOESN"T need to be a Christian, Hindu, Muslim or Jew to help out a blind man to cross the street.

- A human being DOESN"T need to be a Christian, Hindu, Muslim or Jew to donate money for poor people in Haiti.

- A human being DOESN"T need to be a Christian, Hindu, Muslim or Jew to condem Israel's actions which cause death for many children in Gaza.
17:11 April 15, 2010 by Swedesmith
I disagree with the majority of the comments here. I think the major religions of the world should be studied in school so the students can have and educated opinion.
18:00 April 15, 2010 by Kevin Harris
@Nordic Prince

No, I didn't mix them up. Ironically, you did.

Sadly (and obviously) telling school children stories from different religions is not a panacea for blindness, poverty in Haiti, or the suffering of Palestinian children. But it must be better than delegating our childrens' moral development to Hulk Hogan and the Osbournes.
19:57 April 15, 2010 by Venturisection

Religion is the greatest perpetrator of evil ever!!!

RELIGION AND STATE SEPERATE EVEN THE USA HAS IT IN THEIR CONSTITUTION (Alot of people seem to forget this very clear fact)

Religion poisons the mind!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Christianity is Ridiculous!!!
20:42 April 15, 2010 by GLO
The US Constitution forbids a State Religion. We are given the rights to practice any religion with out threat of the state. My Swedish Great Grandfather came to the USA for religious freedom. We value our history, Lutheran background, values. We enjoy the freedom from the hatred you exhibit. We have a free society and alow the hate speech, hatred of people we dont agree with, hatred of God, Jews, so hope some one decides to hate you.. then you too may decide to give your fellow man the freedom to any religion.......

Oh! What if you are Wrong and there is a GOD.....

Good Luck!!!!!
22:03 April 15, 2010 by Alex Coman
The atheist believe world is coming from chaos, by luck.

We, Christians, believe this world is coming from Logos, Reason and Love.

Atheist believe they are coming from monkeys.

We, Christians believe we are made by God.

We, Christians, use water and soap daily...
02:31 April 16, 2010 by harrylatour
I suppose a joke about ''little green men'' is not allowed then??
04:20 April 16, 2010 by xenyasai
@cbeynch: I suggest you sit down before you continue to read my comment, because this might shock you.

I am an atheist and even if my mum believes there might be some God up there she is not what you would call a Christian, so my upbringing was fairly secular and I was given the wonderful opportunity to decide for myself what I trust to be true.

I trust facts and what can be proven with science.

With that said, I am confident that if you ask my family, my wife and my friends that my ethics and morals are very strong. So how can you explain that?

Teaching ethics and morals through religion tends to be a 'do as I say, not as I do' ideology. If you exclude religion from the teaching of ethics and morals, what you got left then is social norms, cultural heritage and the best of all, common sense. Because you can not teach people ethics and morals by saying that you have to behave like this because I say so, you have to explain why you should behave in a certain way and educate people how that benefits you and the society around you.

I am sorry, but it saddens me that you think you can only learn ethics and morals from religion. Must be difficult to live in world bound with so manyy limitiations.
06:07 April 16, 2010 by PonceDeLeon
As long as there are "Tests in Schools", there will be "Prayer in Schools". That Said...

If you are an aetheist, why should you care if someone else prays. Their behavior does not directly affect you. By definition you should not care one way or the other. I would suspect that noone has ever been "injured" by "Second Hand Prayer".

The "core of common law" was derived from the Ten Commandments. The whole idea of "Seperation of State and Religion" was to allow people to pray without fear of persecution and prosecution, from a "Tyrannical State".

The intent was never to stop people from praying, quite to the contrary, it gave people the right to pray. Faith is the destination, religion, only the road.
09:46 April 16, 2010 by Da Goat
Love the above comments

always surprises me atheists with morals (even they are Christian)

only Christianity (real variant not catholic variants) teaches freedom and proper morals and yes most nice country's have Christian morals so much so that the rest of the world wants to move in with us and enjoy our Christian goodness and righteousness but not actually subscribe themselves,(and they are free to do this) they give us the sharp end of the tongue and mistreat our systems and thereby us and because we have Christian morals we don't do nasty things them, like if we were of eastern or Islamic morals! Thank God for Christians and Christian countries, when they are gone where the hell will you go to live then? (Pun not intended) think it out as the world is going there as far as I can see!!
09:48 April 16, 2010 by Kevin Harris
Great post PonceDeLeon.
09:54 April 16, 2010 by Da Goat
Christianity has restrictions only because they protect the freedom of the practitioners and also everyone else in the world, so if you look carefully there are no restrictions at all just peace and freedom for all,

Gods says you are free to be evil or good!
12:17 April 16, 2010 by Dr. Dillner
I agree, Kevin Harris, PonceDeLeon hits the nail on the head. I love the phrase, "second hand prayer"!
13:00 April 16, 2010 by Venturisection

As long as there are "Tests in Schools", there will be "Prayer in Schools". That Said...

If you are an aetheist, why should you care if someone else prays. Their behavior does not directly affect you. By definition you should not care one way or the other. I would suspect that noone has ever been "injured" by "Second Hand Prayer".

The "core of common law" was derived from the Ten Commandments. The whole idea of "Seperation of State and Religion" was to allow people to pray without fear of persecution and prosecution, from a "Tyrannical State".

The intent was never to stop people from praying, quite to the contrary, it gave people the right to pray. Faith is the destination, religion, only the road.

As said by some the idea that a child is born into a religion and does not have a choice in what to believe because his/her parents are of that religion is manipulation on its lowest level.

The reason people don't want children praying is because that it is a travesty that these children are giving up their childhood through no choice of their own to follow one belief that stops their ability to develop.

Intelligent Design is the single most idiotic explaination for anything ever. Religion is an unecessary evil and its been shown over and over again how hypocritical followers are and the people who claim to represent the voice of a supreme being and also the most ridiculous of people the ones who spread the nonsense through the guise of being priests and what have you.

Grow up there are things you don't understand explaining it as "gods will" bla bla bla is ridiculous.
13:03 April 16, 2010 by farnoxo
@Swedesmith - there is a difference between studying a religion (which is a good thing because religion, for good or for bad, has shaped the history of many parts of the world) and practising a religion. Saying prayers is not studying a religion, it is practising it - a big difference!

@PonceDeLeon - you are correct in that an atheist does not care if someone prays in the privacy of their home or a place of worship. However, it is a different situation if you, as someone from a different religious persuasion, are forced to be in an environment where you are exposed to someone else's prayer readings. I have personal experience of being an atheist in a work environment where key personnel would meet every morning to have prayer sessions at work. In addition I also had people at work proselytising and preaching to me about christianity. This violates my individual rights to have my own beliefs.

Frankly I don't care of someone wants to worship baal whilst chanting "kumbaya my lord" with a carrot stuck up their backside...as long as they don't do it in front of me or expect me to join in. That is WHY we have "places of worship" - so people can do their little religious rituals together in privacy and we don't have to see them.
13:28 April 16, 2010 by Iftikhar_Ahmad
Each and every Muslim child should be in a state funded Muslim schools with bilingual Muslim teachers as role model during their developmental periods. There is no place for a non-Muslim child or a teacher in a Muslim school.

Bilingual Muslim children need to learn and be well versed in standard English to follow the National Curriculum and go for higher studies and research to serve humanity. At the same time they need to learn and be well versed in Arabic, Urdu and other community languages to keep in touch with their cultural roots and enjoy the beauty of their literature and poetry.

There are hundreds of state and church schools where Muslim children are in majority. In my iopinion, all such schools may be designated as Muslim community schools.

Iftikhar Ahmad

14:04 April 16, 2010 by Audrian
Churches despise each other's faith. In history, churches took their respective countries to war in the name of religion or supported barbaric wars, e.g., the crusaders, 100 years war, 300 years war in Europe. They endorsed slave trade for a period covering 300 years and colonialism for about a century. In WWII, none of the major religions in Germany or Italy condemned Hitler for the treatment of minorities, Jews, Roma and Poles.

The history of religions is drenched in blood and hypocrisy. It is better to keep them out of state affairs because nothing good would come if churches reclaim the state. It took Europe hundreds of years of violent struggle to remove religion out of the affairs of the state. In Saudi Arabia prayers are mandatory. At the time of prayers, which is announced through the loud speaker, people are required to stop what ever they are doing and begin praying. Otherwise monitors would flog them. In Isreal it is religion that is messing up its politics and made it violent. What happened in Northern Sweden it is the beginning of this invasion.
14:13 April 16, 2010 by Griggy
More people have died for the sake of really stupid clashes between religions or because of genocide from religious persecution than any other cause except for natural death. All these struggles have gotten us to where we are today in the world. A reasonable person would probably think that studying and understanding the reasons why would be a worthwhile endeavor to avoid this. Something about "those that do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it"…apparently collectively we haven't learnt much except how to kill more efficiently. Maybe there is a faint, faint glimmer of hope that sometime in the future we will learn…but I doubt it, human nature and all.

That said, there is a distinct difference between studying religion as part of a public school sponsored school curriculum - and expecting people to participate in a choice of religion not necessarily their own.

No one religion should be favored over another in a public school system. Public schools should not be allowed to teach religion or proselytize, but they should teach about religion. They should teach subjects like the history of religion, the role of religion throughout history, etc..

Religious freedom should be a fundamental human right (but this obviously not agreed by all people or all religions). Still in our society, parents have the right to disagree with this on the basis of their beliefs, cultural differences, or individual preference. If so, then there are a myriad of private schools to which to send their children. A "state funded private school" is oxymoronic, but maybe one exists somewhere.

14:25 April 16, 2010 by Rebel
Oh come on Griggy, you know, Lenin once said that if you say a lie long enough it will be accepted as fact -- and the whole

"More people have died for the sake of really stupid clashes between religions or because of genocide from religious persecution than any other cause except for natural death."

is a great case in point.

What was Ghengis Khan's religious agenda? Millions died at the hands of the Horde, so please, tell me what doctrine they were trying to impart to the peoples of Asia and Europe. How about Atilla the Hun? And what of the Romans? The Romans never promoted their religion outside of their people -- thier bloody conquests were motivated by greed.

So let''s see -- Napoleon's conquests? The US Civil War? The Russian war between the Bolsheviks and the White Russians? WW1? WW2? Stalin's genocide of Russians, ethnic minorities and the Ukrainian holocaust of the early 1930s? Come on now, let's compare the casualties with your alleged wars of religion.
14:28 April 16, 2010 by babyji
Dear Itikhar,

Hmm... nice idea. Why don't you do that in a muslim country? Why in Europe????

Can we go and do the same in muslim country?
18:56 April 16, 2010 by bobbychyldd
There are two arguements here being discussed under the label of religion:

1) God does or does not exist and we as people should or should not follow certain criteria to better our lives.

2) An established church is or is not beneficial to the people.

First we have to decide if God exists. If he does not, then obviously, any church established is not "necessary" but does that mean it can not prove to be "useful" to people in living and directing their lives and giving comfort to them with fears and worries. People study this.

If he does exist. Then the question of allowing people to figure him out and find out his nature and understand their own nature should be just as obvious.

Isn't this the essence of education? Learning about the past? The present? What is? What will be? Doesn't religion fit into this? Can the Chemist live in harmony with the Physicist as they are basing their studies off of different theories and proofs, hypothesis and lab experiments. Do they know everything in their field? Surely not. Will they disagree with each other? Most likely. Even within the same field of study do they disagree. Are they constantly learning new things. You bet!

Why not religion? Isn't it the search for how we became from one "theory?" Isn't it trying to answer who we can become? Why shouldn't it be studied in school? Why can't it be practiced in the lab? If there is truth in religion, will it be beneficial to us? Just like any knowledge, it depends on the owner.

The real question is how do we respect each other when our "theories" or "advanced researched proofs" put us on a different level of understanding or desire from the other. How do we allow the other person their freedom to act, study and live without disabling our own way of life?

Anyone who disregards these statements is a hypocrite and is not looking out for the advancement of humankind but are succoming to the uneducated standard of ignoring what one can't comprehend instead of researching it. Worse, by condemning others to explore and learn for themselves, they become a fascist and an extremist exalting themselves and their understanding of all things above all others.

I have no respect for those people!
12:05 April 17, 2010 by Griggy
@Rebel...thanks for sharing your opinion. I don't think I wrote "wars of religion" anywhere in my comment. But, that aside, Marl Twain said…"there are lies, damned lies, and statistics", so I concede that you are right - probably more people have died from secular reasons wars than from religious grounded wars (BTW, wasn't Attila the Hun referred to as the "Scourge of God" for some reason, and doesn't he play into the Roman conquest history somehow?)

However, when I wrote the comment yesterday, I was beyond only the "mere" WARS fought in the name of one religion or the other. In my comment, I was thinking about all clashes, big or small, of all sorts where religion was(is) the key determinant. I think the term is "religious homicide" which happens on group on group clashes and or pogroms which result in loss of life due to religion or the practice of religious rites (e.g., human sacrifice, the search for infidels, inquisitions, witchcraft, wanton killings because of a pig or a hair, jihads, Salman Rushdie, Waco, Jonestown, to mention a fraction of the list).

Added all together is is true that more people have died in the name of religion than for any other singular reason? How about you do the math and come back with an answer.
19:06 April 17, 2010 by nledit
Over 85% of the world is religious. Religion should be taught in public schools, if for no other reason than to educate the students on the beliefs of others. It doesn't matter if you believe a certain religion is good/bad or that religions as a whole are good/bad. The fact is, they are a part of the world and will forever be. By not teaching it in your public school system is eternally condemning the people to ignorance. I can see some of that ignorance in posts here.. (Ignorance is not an insulting term, btw. Its a simple statement of lack of knowledge on a subject)
14:26 April 18, 2010 by xenyasai
@Rebel: You forgot to add someone on your list, the Spanish Inquisition. OH, sorry, you maybe just wanted me to list more wars that had nothing to do with religion, so your religion doesn't look bad, right?

Here, I make it simple for you: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_war

Before you cherry pick your facts, see to it that no one finds the cherries you threw away.

14:44 April 18, 2010 by Kertis
@xenyasai - First of all wikipedia is the worst source for any unbiased information you can go to. Even worse than MoveOn.org. Wikipedia is Leftist all the way. Just so you know.

Second, the Spanish Inquisition (and other in Europe, not just Spain's) was a very bad thing for those peopple it decided were culpable. However, the estimate is that there wwere less than 100,000 'heretics' so disposed of. They do not come anywhere close to any of the non-religious mass killers of human history, especially those following the Stalin-Max-Trotsky branch.

@Audrian - all churches don't despise others. Islam is the one that currently hates all others. As history has sowed, when Islam takes over you have three choices: Convert, subjugate youself to serf staus, or die. The hate fired by primarily religious reasons in Christianity died out (pardon pun) several centuries ago. This isn't the 15th century,except in Islam, when it's still the 8th century.
23:17 April 18, 2010 by Griggy
@kertis...actually, I can think of one religious bloodletting that comes close to Stalin-Max-Trotsky the work.

The Taiping Rebellion in China during the mid-1800's claimed lives of upwards of 50 million people (if the numbers at the upper calculated limits are to be believed).
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'Swedish startups should embrace newcomers' talents - there's nothing to fear'
How far right are the Sweden Democrats?
The Local Voices
Syria's White Helmets: The Nobel Peace Prize would have meant a lot, but pulling a child from rubble is the greatest reward
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