News and Commentary

Sweden’s Socialist Party Proposes A Ban On Religious Schools

Now that Sweden has banned referring to God in the masculine, the country’s socialist party has announced a proposal to ban all religious schools.

According to Catholic News Agency, the Social Democratic Party in Sweden has proposed “banning all religious schools (known as ‘confessional schools’) in the country, in what the party says is an attempt at better integration of students.”

The underlying argument put forth by the Social Democrats is that so-called “confessional schools” disrupt educational hegemony and segregate students. Minister for Upper Secondary School and Adult Education and Training Anna Ekstrom said in a press conference that “teachers and principals should make the decisions, not priests or imams.”

The Social Democrats have formed a coalition with the Green Party before a general election in September.

Religious educators have pushed back against the proposal, arguing rightly that it would severely curtail religious freedoms. Even if the law does not pass, schools are already heavily regulated by not being able to charge tuition or receive government funding.

In a joint statement, Paddy Maguire, principal of Notre Dame Catholic School in Gothenburg, and Daniel Szirányi, a board member of the same school, said the proposal is an “aggressive assault” on freedoms.

“There is a very negative public debate with a lot of pre-judgements against us and religion in general. We are very worried of course as the proposal is an aggressive assault against our Catholic community,” the two administrators said.

Speaking to CNA, Paddy Maguire stated that confessional schools already abide by Swedish law and that the motivation for the proposal is to crack down on problems occurring in Islamic schools. Essentially, Sweden is lumping Catholic schools in with Islamic schools because “they are too cowardly” to isolate the problem, says Maguire.

“They want to throw the baby out with the bath water,” she said.

Kristina Hellner, the communications officer for the Diocese of Stockholm, told CNA, “It’s presented as a quick and simple solution to a problem that is quite limited.”

“The absolute majority of the religious schools in Sweden show excellent results but a small number of them (and these are Islamic schools) have had different kinds of problems. Instead of doing something about these specific schools, certain politicians would like to solve it by closing all religious schools,” she said.

There are only 71 religious schools in Sweden: 59 are Christian, 11 are Muslim, and one is Jewish.