“It’s the sickest news story I’ve read in Norway all year,” says Morten Hegseth.
October 3rd, 2023
By Henrik Ingebrethsen and Anette Tjemsland, tv2.no
Translated October 3rd,
by Karina Brandt
On Friday evening, Fædrelandsvennen wrote that Lindebøskauen school at Flekkeroy and the christian private school Oasen at Birkelid had cancelled a concert with the artist Tom Hugo Hermansen (43), known from the group KEiiNO.
The cancellation came after parents reacted to the artist’s lyrics, which they believe have a gay content.
– We have parents and students who feel that it will be difficult in terms of religious communities and the like, said the principal of Lindebøskauen school, Marianne Jonassen, to Fædrelandsvennen when the cancellation was announced.
The next day, however, the school chose to reverse the case, and still arrange a concert, after other parents had reacted to the cancellation.
“What is our dilemma is that we should take care of all students in public schools. So, it’s been a challenge all along. Now an alternative program will be given to those who ask for it, says Jonassen to Good Evening Norway.
And it is precisely this possibility of exemption from the concert that makes more people react.
– Is like a news story from Saudi Arabia
One of those who uses strong words about the concert exemption is a journalist and “Skal vi danse” (shall we dance) judge Morten Hegseth (37).
“It’s kind of dystopian that parents are rebelling against an artist who is going to come and give a concert about diversity, especially based on queer people’s struggles, culture and rights,” he says.
Hegseth has repeatedly raised his voice on gay rights issues. In 2019, he also created the VGTV program “Homotherapy,” which looked at conversion therapy in Norway with a critical eye.
He described the controversy surrounding the concert as “the sickest news story he’s read in Norway this year.”
“This looks more like a news story from Saudi Arabia than from Norway. Now it’s not like that, and its further proof that you have to look after the rights you have. I find it problematic that the principal cancels because of complaints from a very few parents. It is also problematic that the principal sets up an alternative event after realizing that cancelling is not something one should do in a Norwegian school in 2023, says Hegseth.
Principal Marianne Jonassen of Lindebøskauen School has been presented with Hegseth’s statement in this article but does not wish to comment further.
Critical of parents
The leader of FRI, the Association for Gender and Sexuality Diversity, Inge Alexander Gjestvang, also thinks the situation is fed up.
“The Education Act states that teaching should open doors to the world and the future. It is therefore very regrettable when students are deprived of the opportunity to learn about and be part of the real diversity that exists in the world, writes Gjestavng in an email to Good Evening Norway.
He believes we are now seeing a distrust towards teachers and school leaders, coordinated through parent networks that put pressure on schools.
“Now is the time to let educators be educators and trust that they teach in line with how they know the children and will manage the curriculum,” he continues.
Furthermore, Gjestvang draws parallels with other parts of the world.
“In recent years, there has been an explosive increase in the number of ‘concerned parents’ trying to prevent children and young people from accessing information about queer lives,” he said.
“This is a tendency we see both in the US and countries in Eastern Europe, but which is also well present in the Norwegian context through various parent networks,” concludes Gjestvang.
“Everyone should be able to live free lives.
The concert with Tom Hugo Hermansen, called “EDEN – Straight pop with queer role models”, is arranged by Den kulturskolesekken, which according to their website is “a government agency for art and culture for children and young people”
Good evening, Norway have contacted the Ministry of Culture and Equality to get their view that the school offers an alternative program for parents who do not want their children to attend the concert.
“There is obviously still work to be done to combat negative attitudes towards queers in Norway,” Minister of Culture and Equality Lubna Jaffery (43) wrote in an email.
“Everyone should be able to live free lives and be who they are. Art and culture can open doors and create space to reflect and discuss topics that may otherwise be difficult for some people to talk about. Through TCS (The Cultural Rucksack), all children and young people, no matter where they live, get to experience art and culture that is made for them, that involves them and that they can participate in, writes Jaffery.
– Will create more acceptance
Tom Hugo Hermansen himself thinks it is strange that students at the public secondary school should be able to get an exemption from his concert.
“None of the texts contain any direct mention of gay love, or are in any other way controversial,” says Hermansen.
He stresses that they are not out to step on anyone’s toes.
“We want to create more acceptance for everyone. Nor do we want to hang out those who are personally christian. But it would be stupid that they put themselves in a situation that makes it a censorship task,” he says, before adding:
“You kind of get a little exhausted, because you’d think you’ve come further. But again, this shows that the fight for acceptance is not over. It’s something you must keep bringing up and say, ‘Damn, I’m not tolerating this,'” Hermansen concludes.
The concert is scheduled to take place at Lindebøskauen middle school on Wednesday after the autumn holidays.
Good evening Norway has not succeeded in getting a comment from the Christian private school, Oasen, at Birkelid, but has been confirmed by TCS (Den kulturskolesekken) that Oasen opted out of the concert early, without any further explanation.