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Sweden proposes stricter controls for religious free schools

Sweden's government has proposed stricter controls on religious free schools, partly through a so-called "democracy clause".

Sweden proposes stricter controls for religious free schools
File photo of a controversial religious free school in Gothenburg closed last year. Photo: Adam Ihse/TT

A ban on new religious free schools which had previously been discussed is not going to be proposed at this time, Schools Minister Lina Axelsson Kihlblom stated in a press conference on Friday.

“There is not a majority in Sweden’s parliament today in favour of a ban,” she said.

However, stricter controls will be introduced, partly through the introduction of a so-called “democracy clause” or demokrativillkor.

“I am happy that the government made the decision to propose a law with clearer requirements and stricter rules for confessional [religious] preschools, schools and after-school clubs,” said Axelsson Kihlbom.

The introduction of a democracy clause means that police records must be consulted when carrying out checks on school owners and leadership. Stricter requirements on reporting a school’s profile will also be placed on the organisations in charge of schools. These organisations will also be required to inform students’ parents or guardians if any religious activities are introduced to the school.

The proposal comes after a series of serious issues detected in free schools with a declared or unofficial Christian or Muslim focus.

Some of these issues include teaching influenced by religious beliefs, as well as certain individuals linked to Muslim free schools who have been deemed a security threat, sympathetic to the Islamic State, or sentenced for serious economic crimes, the TT newswire reports.

Religious schools are unusual in Sweden, unlike other countries, and are not run by the state. According to the Swedish Association of Independent Schools (Friskolornas Riksförbund), a school’s religious profile should not have any effect on the content of lessons, and schools should follow the standard Swedish education programme. It is, for example, not permitted to teach boys and girls separately, even for religious reasons.

Instead, a religious profile means that voluntary religious activities are provided alongside educational activities, such as prayer or a different menu in the school cafeteria reflecting a specific religious diet.

Member comments

  1. That’s fine but if the state are paying the state gets to decide.

    Maybe the parents who want to give their kids a religious education should pay for it.

  2. People shall have the right to educate children in a religious way and if the state does not sponsor them then the state should not interfere with it excessively. However, it is understandable for the state to have a say on it like scrutinize the curriculum of it. It is all about finding the balance of it! Any attempt to divide the secular and religious people like what we can see in France is not pleasant because it will only increase the division in the society. We now live in a time where people shall respect each others´ way of living.

  3. A reason many of us have migrated to Sweden is because, though not perfect, we love the society they have created. Now some want to change things to be the same as the shit holes we came from. Why not go back to our countries of origin and enjoy all the “freedom” there?

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2022 SWEDISH ELECTION

What’s the Swedish Christian Democrats’ abortion contract all about?

Ebba Busch, leader of Sweden's Christian Democrats on Monday presented an "abortion contract", which she wants all of Sweden's party leaders to sign. What's going on?

What's the Swedish Christian Democrats' abortion contract all about?

What’s happened? 

Ebba Busch, leader of Sweden’s Christian Democrat party, called a press conference on Monday in which she presented a document that she called “an abortion contract”, which was essentially a pledge to safeguard the right of women in Sweden to have an abortion.  

“There is room for signatures from all eight party leaders,” she said. “I have already signed on behalf of the Christian Democrats.” 

What does the so-called “abortion contract” say? 

The document itself is fairly uncontroversial.

It states simply that Sweden’s law on abortion dates back to 1974, and that it grants women the right to an abortion up until the 18th week of pregnancy, with women seeking abortions later in their pregnancy required to get permission from the National Board of Health and Welfare. 

“Those of us who have signed this document support Sweden’s abortion legislation and promise to defend it if it comes under attack from forces both within our country and from outside,” the document reads.  

Why have the Christian Democrats produced it? 

The decision of the US Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs Wade, and so allow US states to ban abortion has aroused strong feelings in Sweden, as elsewhere, and Busch is seeking to send a strong signal to distance her own Christian party from the US religious right. 

Abortion has been a recurring issue within the Christian Democrats with several politicians and party members critical of abortion. 

Lars Adaktusson, a Christian Democrat MP, was found by the Dagens Nyheter newspaper to have voted against abortion 22 times when he was a member of the European parliament. 

The party has also in the past campaigned for the right of midwives and other medical professionals who are ethically opposed to abortion not to have to take part in the procedure. 

So why aren’t all the other party leaders signing the document? 

Sweden’s governing Social Democrats, and their Green Party allies, dismissed the contract as a political gimmick designed to help the Christian Democrats distance themselves from elements of their own party critical of abortion. 

“It would perhaps be good if Ebba Busch did some homework within her own party to check that there’s 100 percent support for Sweden’s abortion legislation,” Magdalena Andersson, Sweden’s prime minister, said. “That feels like a more important measure than writing contracts between party leaders and trying to solve it that way.”  

In a debate on Swedish television, Green Party leader Märta Stenevi argued that it would be much more significant if Busch’s own MPs and MEPs all signed the document. 

It wasn’t other party leaders who needed to show commitment to abortion legislation, but “her own MPs, MEPs, and not least her proposed government partners in the Sweden Democrats and even some within the Moderate Party”. 

She said it made her “very very worried” to see that the Christian Democrats needed such a contract. “That’s why I see all this more as a clear sign that we need to move forward with protecting the right to abortion in the constitution,” she said. 

How have the other right-wing parties reacted? 

The other right-wing parties have largely backed Busch, although it’s unclear if any other party leaders are willing to actually sign the document. 

Tobias Billström, the Moderates’ group parliamentary leader, retweeted a tweet from Johan Paccamonti, a Stockholm regional politician with the Moderate Party, which criticised the Social Democrats for not signing it, however. 

“It seems to be more important to blow up a pretend conflict than to sign the Christian Democrats’ contract or look at the issue of [including abortion rights in] the constitution, like the Moderates, Liberals and Centre Party want to,” Paccamonti wrote. 

The Liberal Party on Sunday proposed protecting abortion rights in the Swedish constitution, a proposal which has since been backed by the Moderate party and the Centre Party

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