Parents who sued the Norwegian state 10 years ago over mandatory religious classes in public schools could finally claim victory on June 29. The European Court of Human Rights narrowly ruled in their favour.

The court in Strasbourg ruled that Norway’s so-called KRL classes in elementary schools (an acronym for the Norwegian words for Christian education, religion and lifestyle) violated Article 2 of the European human rights convention.

The parents wanted to exempt their children from the religion classes but weren’t allowed to do so. They sued, and the legal appeals process took them all the way to Strasbourg.

“Think that our boys would be old enough to drink champagne by the time this case was decided!” exclaimed one of the plaintiffs, Carolyn Midsem. She was the mother of a 10-year-old boy in 1997 who she didn’t think should have to sit through the religion class.

“It’s almost unreal that it took this much time, but now we have confirmation that we were right,” Midsem told new bureau NTB.

The secretary general of The Norwegian Humanist Association (Human-Etisk Forbund) hailed the court decision, saying that the schools must now conform to the court’s decision.

The court noted that schools in Norway, where there’s no separation of church and state, have Christian goals and that Christianity has a dominant position in the curriculum. The state religion is evangelical Lutheran.

The court wrote in its opinion that it’s therefore difficult to accommodate minority groups with other religious rights by only offering a KRL class that stressed Christianity.

The Humanist Association claimed the state school system can now no longer use public schools for religious classes aimed at influencing students.

Seven families had sued the state, and lost at the local, appeals and Supreme Court levels. Four of the families then appealed to the European Court of Human Rights. Education Minister Øystein Djupedal said he’d take the court’s ruling under advisement.

Source: Norwegian Newspaper Aftenposten, Oslo/Norway