On January 26, Rabbi Alexander and Leah Namdar, Chabad representatives to Sweden, were served at their home with a notice by Gothenburg’s school authorities: Four of their children presently studying at an international online school must be delivered to a Swedish school by February 1. Failure to do so may result in a fine of 16000 crown—the equivalent of $2400 per week.
The notice came following a change in Sweden’s law January 1st that tightened restrictions on homeschooling, permitting it only in “extraordinary” circumstances. Religious reasons were explicitly excluded as a valid reason.
According to Richard Backenroth, the attorney representing the Namdars in their court battle against Gothenburg’s school authorities, the case will be a critical test of Sweden’s record on religious freedom. European law protects the religious freedom of its citizens, but with this action, Sweden is effectively denying the Namdars this right.
“This is a stain on the reputation of a country that takes pride in equality as a fundamental value,” says Rabbi Namdar who, like his wife, regards education as their “highest priority.”
Backenroth, who is appealing the notice and its “exorbitant fine” which came while the Namdars’ case is still pending, told lubavitch.com that “Sweden’s schools cannot possibly accommodate the needs of the Namdar children with respect to their religious requirements.