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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Swedish watchdog closes two Islamic schools for radicalising pupils

The Swedish Schools Inspectorate has revoked the permits for two Islamic free schools in Uppsala and Stockholm, after the country's security services warned pupils were at risk of radicalization.

Swedish watchdog closes two Islamic schools for radicalising pupils

On Thursday, the Swedish Schools Inspectorate announced that it had revoked approvals for the Imanskolan Foundation and the Framstegsskolan Foundation, based on warnings from Sweden’s Säpo security police. 

Säpo had complained about both the management at the schools and the learning environment, judging the school leadership unsuitable to conduct school activities.

According to Säpo, students of the schools are at risk of exposure to extreme Islamist ideology.

“Säpo have assessed that children risk being exposed to radicalization by staying in an environment that advocates creating enclaves in society instead of respect for human rights and basic democratic values,” The inspectorate wrote. 

The announcement of the closures comes just months after a proposal for stricter controls on religious free schools.

In February, Schools Minister Lina Axelsson Kihlblom stated that while a ban on new religious free schools would not be put forward, stricter controls would be established through the introduction of a  “democracy clause” or demokrativillkor.

“The proposed law will create clearer requirements and stricter rules for confessional [religious] preschools, schools, and after-school clubs,” said Axelsson Kihlbom.

More than 200 students at the Imamskolan primary school in Uppsala will be forced to change schools for the autumn term. At Framstegsskolan in Stockholm, about 90 students are affected by the shutdown. 

The decision, which may be appealed, currently applies from 15 and 17 August 2022.

by Kirstie Hall