Standing up for justice

May 3, 2021

A book is under construction that documents the dramatic events in Skurup and Staffanstorp during the years 2020. During that year, the two municipalities tried to ban the veil in schools, contrary to religious freedom and prevailing laws. The principal of Skurup, Mattias Liedholm, chose not to follow the municipality’s path and stood up for the students’ choice to wear a veil if they wished. Now he will soon come out with a book that describes the strange year.

The municipality’s decision was in conflict with religious freedom as we know it in Sweden, which was also pointed out widely. Despite attempts by the municipalities to get around the ban, the Discrimination Man (DO) stood up, and came to the conclusion after his supervision that the purpose of the clothing policy seemed to be to ban religious clothing. The DO concluded that the clothing policy violates the prohibition against direct discrimination related to religion or other beliefs.

“Even though the policy, according to its wording, affects all clothing that hides students and staff in the municipality’s preschools and primary schools, the purpose is precisely to ban religiously marked clothing,” the DO wrote in a press release. We have seen the same trend in other European countries, and the DO is reviewing the vague reasons given.

A restriction of religious freedom requires legal support, something that is lacking in these cases. Neither the Education Act nor any other law gives a municipality the right to decide on restrictions in the way that has now taken place, said Chief Councilor Peter Kristiansson, judge in the case against Skurup municipality. The reasons can only be guessed but are not so difficult: signal policy in these new times. Good forces are needed that can see through that kind of rhetoric and mark for justice and honor, one of these was certainly Mattias Liedholm. We need more people like him for a harmonious society.