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Summer hymn can continue to be sung in schools

Parliament's Constitutional Law Committee has found no barrier to schools continuing the practice of the singing of the 'suvivirsi', or summer hymn, at end-of-school ceremonies in Finland.

Suvivirsi
Image: Päivi Leppänen / Yle

Last month, Deputy Chancellor of Justice Mikko Puumalainen called on the Board of Education to look into the singing of the traditional hymn at school events because of its Christian overtones that some believe could run counter to guidelines on religious freedom and equality.

On Friday, Parliament's Constitutional Law Committee heard from legal experts on the matter.

Tuomas Ojanen, Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Helsinki, summed up the committee's position on the issue to Yle as meaning that schools can continue the practice of the singing of the hymn at annual end of school ceremonies.

Board of Education Director General Aulis Pitkälä took the same position.

"Of course, the singing of the summer hymn can continue," he told Yle.

A stand on the matter was taken already last autumn by Deputy Parliamentary Ombudsman Jussi Pajuoja, according to which the first two verses of the hymn are not particularly of a religious nature.

Professor Ojanen now believes that there is a need to clarify guidelines for schools, for example, on the content of morning assemblies and arrangements for Christmas and spring celebrations.

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