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new school law

"We can't participate and be religiously neutral"

Published fredag 8 juni 2012 kl 10.06
In several towns the traditional church ceremonies to mark the end of the school year are being abandoned. Photo: Mons Brunius/Scanpix

The new School Law says there can be no religious influence in the education system, and schools can only hold end-of-year assemblies in church if it is the school head who decides what is said, not a church minister. But several congregations in the Swedish Church say no one other than the priest has this right.

Claes-Göran Aggebo at the Education Agency, in charge of implementing the new law, says the tradition of ending the school year in church is so strong that the practice in and of itself does not go against the non-denominational rule for schools.

But even though it is now written into the School Law that the classroom must be free of religious influence, the school ceremony (skolavslutningen) can still be held in church, as long as the principal decides what is said.

Several towns are abandoning this school ritual, because the principals and priests cannot agree on the issue.

Berth Löndahl, a reverend in Bunkeflo Congregation, says that no one outside the church can tell priests what to say in church.

"We can't participate and be religiously neutral because I am not neutral. I'm a priest in the Swedish Church. The problem arises when I am explicitly told that I as a priest cannot pray or issue a blessing in church," Löndahl told Swedish Radio News.

Claes-Göran Aggebo said the new School Law is crystal clear when it comes to assemblies.

"There 's no room to interprpret the rules differently. But the priest is allowed to bless the children. There's room for that in the law," Aggebo said.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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