Christopher Barnekov, director of Scandinavia House in Fort Wayne, Indiana, sends a report on a new Swedish law restricting home schooling and thereby restricting religious freedom as well. He asks that I mention that this is “first look at a very complex development” and based on newspaper reports.
Sweden’s Riksdag adopted a complex, 1500 page school law on June 22. Only vague outlines have appeared in the press, but the reports are alarming. The new law apparently makes home schooling almost impossible and removes religious motivations as an allowable basis for home schooling. Home schools were already severely limited in Sweden. (For a particularly shocking case, see this.)
The new law also appears to restrict religious schools sharply and limit severely the extent to which they can incorporate faith in their curriculum.
These matters are less than clear and have received little discussion in the Swedish press. What is clear is that the law is very long and very poorly written (Sweden is not, of course, the only country in which long, complex, poorly written laws have been adopted this year). Sweden has a law review council (lagrådet) that reviews proposed laws.
In March this council severely criticized the proposed school law, stating that it had so many shortcomings it should not even have been submitted for review. The council noted that several provisions appeared to violate Sweden’s Constitution (grundlag) and many provisions were highly ambiguous. In particular, it grants broad new powers to the government to regulate schools. (Here is the Dagens Nyheter article in Swedish.)
The Education Minister had described the law as promoting “knowledge, freedom of choice, and security,” but it appears to restrict freedom of choice severely, especially concerning religious issues, and to impose a high degree of uniformity on all schools. Private schools will apparently be forced to become identical to government schools, although there is also language suggesting that Confessional schools may continue to exist. From what I have seen in a brief skimming of an early draft of the law (1029 pages in Swedish), it appears to be a law that could have been drafted in Provincetown, Massachusetts.
Although the press reports do not mention this (such a mention would be most politically incorrect in Sweden), it is likely that the new law is aimed largely at the rapidly growing Muslim schools. If these resemble Muslim schools in other countries, they are probably controlled by radical Islamists … but no Swedish journalist would dare write such a thing.
Because the new law is so unclear, it is not clear to what extent it will affect schools such as the Lutheran High School in Gothenburg (L.M. Engströms Gymnasiet). It does clearly vastly increase the government’s powers, however, and the next time a (more) leftist government takes power one can expect it to use these powers against believers.
There is also considerable information in English about the home schooling aspects of the new law at the website of the Swedish Home Schooling Association (ROHUS) .
Dr. Barnekov will be posting updates on the Scandinavia House website, which is a very helpful, and perhaps unique, source of information on Christianity and other matters in Scandinavia.