Swedish Minister asks whether it’s time to ban faith schools

Swedish Minister asks whether it’s time to ban faith schools

Amid reports that some schools are segregating boys and girls, Sweden’s Minister for Upper Secondary Schools, Aida Hadzialic, above, has suggested that the country needs to discuss whether to ban religious schools.

According to The Local, the Minister is calling for multi-party talks in parliament to discuss how to:

Really guarantee that school classes are free from religious elements. The schools law stipulates that school tuition must be secular, but we are receiving worrying signals that this is not the case, that girls and boys are being taught separately. We can’t have it like that.

The minister said she would push for change in parliament this autumn after the education ministry was informed of gender segregation in schools. She said:

Swedish schools should be for everybody, they should break down segregation and form the basis for Sweden to stay strong.

Sweden’s free school system of state-funded but privately run schools was introduced in 1992 and paved the way for religious organisations to operate schools as long as they stuck to the secular Swedish curriculum.

Meanwhile, it is reported here that a Swedish pastor and his wife were among a group of Christian parents who scuppered planned yoga lessons at a school in Rydaholm.

Linda Olsson contacted the local school authorities and pointed out that her husband David, the town’s pastor, was obliged to keep religion out of ceremonies held to mark the end of the school year. Shouldn’t yoga be subjected to the same scrutiny, she asked.

Rydaholm is part of Sweden’s Bible belt and other Christian parents shared the Olssons’ concerns about yoga and its links to Hinduism and Buddhism.

Said Linda Olsson:

Yoga is used by Buddhists as a form of meditation. We don’t know what it might lead to.

The parents said they supported physical activity for their children but wondered why the school didn’t offer more traditional exercises.

Their efforts succeeded: just before the yoga classes were due to start the principal announced that they would not go ahead. Linda Olsson was elated.

It feels really good that we managed to stop this. Now we just need to be vigilant to ensure it doesn’t sneak back in again.

Not everybody shared the parents’ concerns and the story sparked much mirth among secular Swedes on social media. Johan Hilton, theatre editor with the Dagens Nyheter daily, tweeted:

Regarding the parents who blocked the lessons. One has at some level sensed that yoga is in league with the Devil.

Samuel Teglund, an editor at Världen Idag, which has recently published a series of articles about the rise of yoga in Sweden, said:

We’ve been writing abut yoga for some time and think it’s an important issue …  because not everyone agrees it’s religiously neutral and harmless. We hear from people working in schools and the healthcare system who are concerned about the spiritual effects.

When it comes to Christianity, the education authorities are very specific about what can and cannot be said and what psalms can be sung at end-of-year school ceremonies in churches. This doesn’t happen at all with yoga even though it also has a divine connection in Eastern religions.

The yoga discussion had split readers into two camps, said Teglund.

Some are very glad we’ve created a debate about yoga; others think it’s completely unproblematic and have a giggle about Christian parents who are upset about the religious influence on children. It’s very polarized, which I think shows why it’s important to talk about it.


For the record, Sweden’s Prince Carl Philip (third in line for the throne) last year married a yoga instructor, Sofia Hellqvist, above, now Her Royal Highness Princess Sofia of Sweden, Duchess of Värmland.

According to this report, Sofia studied yoga in New York City and became a certified yoga instructor. She then started her own yoga centre in Manhattan and launched a yoga gear collection “Drop of Mindfulness”, that she co-designed.

21 responses to “Swedish Minister asks whether it’s time to ban faith schools”

  1. Paul says:

    Yoga – we don’t know what it might lead to!
    Oh no!!
    Flexibility, a feeling of calm.
    Whatever next?

  2. Broga says:

    Shows yet again the fear of Christians of anything that might threaten their beliefs – even when there is no threat there.

  3. Stonyground says:

    Regarding the idea of faith schools in general. Since all of the various religions contradict each other, it follows that only one of them can be true. If we have schools teaching different faiths, it then follows that all but one of these schools are teaching falsehoods to their students. Since this is the case, and this is certainly not acceptable, the teaching of religion in schools should be deferred until those who advocate it have sorted out which religion is correct. Only then should that religion, the correct one, be taught in schools.

    Incidentally, when I was at school in the seventies, boys and girls were segregated quite a lot. I didn’t give this much thought at the time, it was just how it was.

  4. barriejohn says:

    I was warned off of yoga as a Christian, after it had been recommended as a means of dealing with anxiety. Same reasons; it might let demons into your mind.

    Stonyground: Why waste time debating the issue? It seems obvious to me that a certain Middle Eastern religion will end up as top dog, and it won’t be the Christian one!

  5. remigius says:

    “We don’t know what it might lead to.”

    Oh yes we do – Deepak Chopra.

    Surely that’s reason enough to ban it!


    Ban faith schools and anyone who does not like it can fuck off to some other country where there are faith schools.

  7. barriejohn says:

    A prince and a yoga instructress
    Were practising moves on a mattress,
    When he got his leg stuck
    Round his neck, and said, “Fuck;
    I was warned you’re a bloody seductress!”

  8. 1859 says:

    I wish I could marry my yoga teacher. I often sit there with my legs and arms in strange poses fantasising…instead of meditating. Maybe this is what the Swedish christians are frightened about? It might tempt their kids to have devilish thoughts of the body…and we all know where that can lead!

  9. pinecone says:

    …time to ban faith schools?

    No. We should have done it years ago. But better late than never.

  10. L.Long says:

    If not out right banning than at least they have to meet the same requirements as any other school. Same with charity stuff. STOP religious privilege!!! They are usually more dishonest than secular people.

  11. John the Drunkard says:

    ‘Yoga’ does not exist as some single entity. There are vastly different schools with wildly various practices. Some are almost ‘huff and puff’ calisthenics, and some verge on direct religious practice.

    So, Xtian and non-Xtian parents might well ask just what sort of yoga is being offered. Are the classes riddled with New Age and alt-med snake oil? In which case Hindu and Buddhist parents might have reservations of their own.

    It SHOULD be entirely possible to have a school yoga program that is fully secular and free from irrational baggage. Has anyone even tried yet?

  12. RussellW says:

    State funded privately run schools is a monumentally stupid idea. Of course it’s time to ban faith schools, they’re not educational institutions.

    My congratulations to Prince Carl Philip.

  13. Richard Benz says:

    In the United States, since we cannot ban them in this god-sodden country, can we AT LEAST remove the totally unconstitutional tax exemption gifted to religious organizations? I resent paying taxes which should be payed by institutions promoting superstition, dogma, and ancient mystic foolishness.

  14. Laura Roberts says:

    @JohnTheDrunkard: you raise a good point. In one of my abortive attempts to get into yoga, I stopped going when the instructors started talking too much woo (chakras, aromatherapy, etc.) The flexibility and strength exercises are wonderful, but the woo is toxic and should indeed be kept from children.

    A devout Christian friend of mine (fundamentalist, creationist) has been practising yoga for years now and regularly posts to Facebook pictures of herself posing and her progress. On this same Facebook page, she and her Christian friends heaped ridicule over a Muslim group in Canada who were successful in removing yoga from classrooms there. I refrained from telling them about Christian groups such as this one that have done the same thing.

  15. Wellington says:

    LR – why refrain from telling the truth?

  16. Keep religion and politics OUT of schools! Indoctrination has NO place in the classroom.

  17. remigius says:

    Miss Floribunda Rose,

    I disagree. It is essential that children are taught about all religions in schools. If their only exposure is at home, or the mosque/church/synagogue then they are more likely to be indoctrinated.

    It is also essential that children are taught about politics, so they can develop an understanding of all political systems and persuasions – then use that knowledge to make informed choices when they take part in the democratic process.

  18. Cali Ron says:

    Religion should be taught in school as the superstition it is. You don’t teach politics, you teach government and political science. They are not the same thing.

  19. RussellW says:

    Cali Ron

    Agreed. The teaching of religions would provide superstititions with a degree of legitimacy and would also divert resources from useful subjects. If religion is to be taught as a subject, it should be as sociological study.

  20. Schools could teach about religion through helping pupils to debate about it. The program should be delivered in an ethics or sociology class. This would be a good way of avoiding accidental indoctrination. It would avoid making religion seem credible and thus opening the way for pupils to be brainwashed and radicalised at home.

  21. The other question about teaching about religion is, “Who do you take as an authority on what the religion teaches and stands for?” If the class is about say Catholicism, then consider this. If it is true that the papacy was not started by God to teach his word and to govern then the pope has no authority over what you believe and do though he imagines he has. So you cannot really use the pope as a measure to decide what Catholics are to believe or what Catholicism is. He is not a true servant of the Church at all. Now what do you do? Do you turn to experts who are not speaking in the name of the Church but who may be stating the truth about what it stands for though it is on the opposite side of the fence about what Catholics say Catholicism is? The fact remains that if experts say that Mormonism is best called a fraud rather than a religion and the experts are right, then Mormonism’s self-declaration that it is a religion does not matter one bit. It is a fraud not a religion. So you heed what the experts say Mormonism stands for not the Church. Classes about religion teach popes and prophets and sons of God as authorities on what the religion is. That is biased. The point I am trying to make that religion class or classes about religion are letting bias in favour of the religion being truly divinely inspired creep in in some fashion or to some degree. How can classes be more neutral? Is it possible?