Government officials in Sweden have recently taken intentional measures to drastically limit the ability of their citizens to offer expressions of religion as it applies to several areas of life. Most recently the ability of Swedish citizens to use words with religious connotations on their personalized license plates were banned. The ban became public after a Christian's application to have the word “Kristus” (Christ) was rejected. The same man previously submitted a request for “Jesus” but it was also rejected. Mikael Anderson, a press officer for the Swedish Transport Agency, was quoted by Swedish News as saying “We deny any words that we believe can cause offense. Among other things we say no to everything that has any religious connotations no matter which connotations.” To some, this may seem like a minor inconvenience, but many others see this as Sweden’s latest move of its ongoing oppression of Christianity. One example of Sweden’s hostility toward Christians can be seen in their repeated protection of ISIS fighters while denying asylum to Christians from Iran. Another example is the recent proposal to ban independent religious schools in Sweden.
Effort to Ban Religious Schools in Sweden
The controlling party of the Swedish government; The Social Democratic Party, has expressly pledged to ban all independent religious schools in the country. The majority of such schools (59) in Sweden are Christian based with one Jewish school and eleven Muslim schools. Collectively these schools account for five percent of all free schools in Sweden. Speaking at a press conference in Stockholm; Sweden's minister for Public Administration, Ardalan Shekarabi, said that “teachers, not priests and imams should be in charge of schools.” Swedish law prohibits anyone to charge for primary education for children up to 18, but all schools not run by the government receive government funding. Thus, all religious schools in Sweden, one of the most secular nations in the world, are “free schools,” and operate independently while receiving state funding. The Swedish government claims that such religious schools discriminate against immigrants on the basis of religion and only serve to segregate the population. Therefore, in eliminating religious based “free schools” the Swedish government claims its intention is to eliminate segregation across their country. Sadly, many see this as yet another attempt to ban religious expressions across Sweden.
Relevant Scripture Passages
Inasmuch as Sweden is an expressly secular nation it should not surprise us that they are attempting to ban religious expressions across their country. However; the Bible records that there will come a time when a great departure from the truth of God’s Word will occur. The New Testament refers to this event repeatedly. Paul mentions a coming “falling away” (KJV), or “rebellion” (NIV) in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. Paul further elaborates on this idea in 1 Timothy 4:1 when he notes that in the last days “some shall depart from the faith” (KJV). We must also remember that some of the worst persecution recorded in the Bible came at the hands of local leaders (Acts 4:1–3). Jesus warned His followers, and modern believers, that “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:10). He also taught His disciples, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (John 15:18). Therefore, we should not be surprised at such open persecution such as is taking place. Undoubtedly, as the government officials in Sweden try to suppress religious expression they are adding to the persecution and discrimination spoken of in Scripture. Let us pray for those negatively impacted by this situation.