Leading Danish politicians as well as parents of local children and education officials are publicly criticizing Danish primary schools for cancelling Christmas services in schools because of the presence of immigrants with diverse religious backgrounds.
“We took the decision because we have children who are not Protestant,” Marianne Vederso Schmidt, the head of Gribskolen in Graested, a town of fewer than 5,000 people in eastern Denmark, wrote in an intranet posting earlier this month.
Schmidt noted that the decision may have been overdue, as the education law forbids preaching “and it must be left to the individual families whether they want to privately attend a service.”
A multitude of parents wrote in and called in complaints to the primary school, then the story gain steam when it was picked up by national news sources, which portrayed the move as appeasing Muslim immigrants.
“I don’t see why our tradition has to be taken away from us, just because someone else at the school believes in something else,” Mette Brüel-Holler, a parent of two enrolled daughters, told TV2. “I come from a small community, where the church is important, and these traditions are beautiful. I remember enjoying them myself as a child, and they are a fundamental part of Christmas.”
The cancellation of Christmas activities at the school even got the local pastor up in arms and he complained that Christmas was being “drained of its deeper meaning” and the mayor of the Zeeland town, who called it a “misguided decision.”
Politicians from across the ruling center-right coalition have joined in the chorus of criticism.
“Danish primary schools have a duty to spread education – and teaching the cultural values and knowledge connected to Christmas is an essential part of that,” Health Minister Ellen Trane Norby wrote on her Facebook page. “What benefits from this decision? Not the culture or level of integration within the country.”
“We have a critical lack of self-esteem. We are a Christian country with our own traditions. We should not sacrifice this in the name of multiculturalism,” wrote Marie Krarup, of the Danish People’s Party, asking social media users whether similar initiatives had been undertaken by other institutions.