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DISCRIMINATION

Swedish sisters skip ‘sinful’ dance class

Citing European human rights law, a family of strict Lutheran faith in northern Sweden have managed to overturn a decision by their daughters' school, which had refused to allow the three girls to skip out on "sinful" dance class during PE.

Swedish sisters skip 'sinful' dance class

Siblings Johanna, Veronica and Emilia in Pajala, northern Sweden, belong to the Laestadianism faith, a branch of Lutheran Christianity that preaches strong conservative values. Dancing, in particular, is frowned upon and is considered to be a ‘sin’ by especially strict Laestadians.

The girls’ parents have claimed that their daughters should be exempt from the dance element that features in the state-wide school curriculum for physical education (PE). Attempts to get a free pass for their daughter Johanna were met with resistance from the school, who said they had to by law make sure pupils complete all elements in PE so they can get a passing grade.

The conservative family, however, launched an appeal with the administrative court of appeal (kammarrätt), stating that not only did Sweden have religious freedom, but the school’s refusal to allow their daughters’ a dance-free gym class went against Sweden’s “proportionality principle”, which attempts to strike a balance between cause and consequence. The appeal also quoted European human rights law extensively to sway the court.

Had the sisters simply boycotted the dance element, they would run the risk of not getting a passing grade from their PE teacher. The family, meanwhile, had said they would like the school to adapt its lessons to better suit the religious needs of their children.

Dance instruction is currently mandatory for students in upper secondary school (gynmasiet) in order for them to pass physical education class. Yet according to previous education legislation, schools should develop their teaching so that students can participate in class regardless of their religious beliefs.

The administrative court of appeal has now sided with the family, meaning that the three sisters can opt out of dancing without risking any educational backlash.

Laestadians, who are estimated to have over 200,000 followers worldwide, have strong roots in the Nordic countries. Devoted followers don’t watch television, shy away from make-up and stay clear of sports.

Patrick Reilly

Follow Patrick on Twitter here

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CRIME

Police in Sweden block Danish extremist’s new demo

Police in western Sweden have rejected an appeal by the Danish extremist Rasmus Paludan against a decision to deny him permission for a Koran-burning protest in Borås.

Police in Sweden block Danish extremist's new demo

“Rasmus Paludan has a rhetoric which is intended to create disorder and chaos,” Emelie Kullmyr, the police officer in charge of protecting this year’s General Election in Western Sweden, said in a press release.

“We have seen how the public has been exposed to serious danger and police officers have been injured. The task of the police is to ensure security and we will do that, but all positive forces need to be helped to maintain peace and order.” 

In the press release, the police emphasised the importance of the public’s right to demonstrate and express their opinions freely, but said that the right to hold public demonstrations could still be curtailed in “exceptional cases”. 

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Paludan, who aimed to hold the demonstration on April 29th, can now appeal the police’s decision at the local civil court in Borås. 

He has now applied to hold on May 1st rallies in Uppsala and Stockholm for his far-right party Stram Kurs, or “Hard Line”. 

Koran-burning demonstrations held over the Easter holidays in the cities of Norrköping, Linköping, Malmö, Örebro, and in the Stockholm suburb of Rinkeby, led to the worst riots Sweden has seen in decades, with 100 police officers injured.

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