The former Swedish state church has been reasonably independent for twelve years. Now Juniorette’s school plans to send the kids walking in festive procession with flaming torches to the Swedish church’s local branch for an “Advent gathering”. Good fun no doubt, and Juniorette would probably be most displeased if I made her stay in school with the more orthodox among the Muslim kids and a temp teacher.
I don’t enjoy being pushed to make this call. So I’ve drafted a letter of protest to the headmistress where I point out that such non-educational favouritism for one of the country’s many religious organisations is inappropriate and illegal. The event will give the Swedish church free brand recognition and goodwill. I emailed the file to the other parents and offered them to make improvements and co-sign the letter with me.
One of the parents replied as follows.
There is something called an ecumenical meeting that you should read up on, Martin. Of course the children should take part in the torch procession. It is both fun and then being in the church is both beneficial and educational for most of them regardless of religious background. Secondly it is not illegal! Where in the school law of 1 July does it say so?
I find this to have some wider interest and I don’t want to spam all the other parents with this discussion. And so I’ve decided to reply here on my blog.
1. Ecumenical meetings by definition take place between people of different religious faiths. Not between religious organisations and the secular municipal school system. Secular schools should offer children an unbiased outsider’s view of all major religions, not offer one of them them free support under fun and festive circumstances.
I’m all for religious groups making ecumenical contact among themselves if it can reduce hate between them. But I would much prefer it if people would instead just leave those groups.
2. The school law of 1 July states (as have previous versions going back many decades) that Swedish schools must follow the state curriculum. The 2011 state school curriculum states in its second paragraph (p. 7) that Undervisningen i skolan ska vara icke-konfessionell, “Teaching in school must be non-denominational”. Whether an activity in school should be seen as teaching or not is usually judged simply on the basis of whether it takes place during scheduled school hours, as the Advent gathering does.