Church charges schools for summer send-off

Church charges schools for summer send-off
File image of children attending a service in church. File: TT
A small church in Sandviken, central Sweden, has decided to charge local schools to have their traditional end-of-year ceremony in the church and has taken the priest out of the mix entirely.

Last year, Sweden debated whether it was appropriate that public schools continue the tradition of taking their pupils to the local church for the summer kick-off. The Swedish state separated from the Swedish Church (Svenska kyrkan) in the year 2000 and the country's population has become ever more religiously diverse.

The small church in Sandviken has now decided to offer schools to use the church building, but having a priest officiate or attend is not part of the new deal.

"Maybe the priest has prepared a speech and is then contacted by a teacher or a parent who tells the priest what he or she can and cannot say," Sandviken priest Ulf Jensius told Sveriges Radio (SR).

"You avoid that through this contract."

The new contract also charges local schools 1,500 kronor ($230) to use the church, which in part goes to pay overhead costs, Jensius said. 

And if a school insists on having a priest, they can talk to the church about it.

"So far there hasn't been a school that said they want (a priest), but it could happen that someone does," Jensius told SR. "And then we'll have to discuss what the priest's participation would look like." 

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