Bob Unruh joined WND in 2006 after nearly three decades with the Associated Press, as well as several Upper Midwest newspapers, where he covered everything from legislative battles and sports to tornadoes and homicidal survivalists. He is also a photographer whose scenic work has been used commercially.More ↓Less ↑
Melissa’s family in Erlangen, awaiting word in her case
Five “well-educated” children have been ordered into state custody by a court that applied to a second family a ruling taking a 15-year-old homeschooler from her family and sending her to a psychiatric ward.
The action fulfills a dire forecast from a human rights group that the government’s success in the first case would encourage officials to act against other families in Germany.
Its president, Joel Thornton, earlier had told WND that, “There is an increased fear among homeschoolers about whether their children are next,” after Melissa Busekros, 15, was removed from her home and ordered first to a psychiatric ward, then a foster home, because of her “school phobia.”
Thornton told WND the ruling in Saxony means that while the government officials have not yet taken the five children from the family home, they have permission to do so at any time.
“Apparently, Germany has decided that it can determine when and where the children go to school; and where they live while doing so,” noted Thornton. “The youth welfare, supported by the police force, can take the children out of the home at any time with or without notice.”
The decision, according to the IHRG, said the well-being of the children “can only be achieved by their attendance in the public schools.”
According to a CBN report, the legal custody of Rosine, Jotham, Kurt-Simon, Lovis and Ernst Brause was taken away from parents Bert and Kathrin and given to the local youth welfare office.
The parents reportedly can regain custody of their children only by placing them in public school.
In the order, which was based solely on the parents’ decision against sending their children to public school, the family also was told to pay court costs estimated at $4,000.
The judge had concluded that the children were well-educated, but accused the parents of failing to provide their children with an education in a public school. The court noted that one of the daughters expressed the same opinions as her father, showing they have not had the chance to develop “independent” personalities.
That circumstance and others echo the case involving Melissa Busekros, a case on which IHRG has been working for several weeks.
“We are gearing up to continue the fight in Germany for the right of parents to control the education of their children in accordance with their sincerely-held religious beliefs. This will be an expensive battle, and we ask you to pray about helping us fight the good fight,” the IHRG said.
“Our efforts must be bathed in prayer, so we ask you to please continue praying for Melissa and the Busekros family, as well as the Brauses. No parent should have to watch their children being forcibly removed from their home because of their religious beliefs,” the group said.
The newest decision came even though a United Nations report included some new criticism of the German school system.
“…it should be noted that education may not be reduced to mere school attendance and that educational processes should be strengthened to ensure that they always and primarily serve the best interests of the child,” the UN report said.
“Distance learning methods and homeschooling represent valid options which could be developed in certain circumstances, bearing in mind that parents have the right to choose the appropriate type of education for their children, as stipulated in article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,” it continued.
A separate report out of Berlin also noted that in the German school system, children from poor families and immigrant backgrounds are at a disadvantage, and the system does not provide equal opportunities.
Melissa’s seat at the family dinner table is left empty until she returns
The IHRG reported that the work on Melissa’s case continues. As WND has reported, the 15-year-old recently released a letter through which she pleaded for permission to return to her home and parents.
“I want to ask you for help, to get my right to go back to my family, as I wish,” Melissa Busekros wrote in an English letter hand-delivered to the IHRG.
It was more than six weeks ago she was taken by youth welfare officials accompanied by police officers from her home first to a psychiatric hospital in Nuremberg, and then later to a foster home.
“I am not sick as the doctor said and my family is the best place for me to live,” she said in her letter.
The removal order in Melissa’s case has been affirmed at the appellate level, where a judge also ordered her parents, Hubert and Gudrun Busekros, to be given state-sponsored psychiatric tests, raising fears that the results of those tests will be used by the government to remove the family’s other five children.
Thornton said even those German families who already have fled to other countries because of Germany’s homeschool ban are moving into hiding because of the possibility they could be returned to face German fines or jail time for homeschooling.
The IHRG reported it is working on several fronts to try to help Melissa and her family, with several German lawyers evaluating their options for an appeal, all the way to the European Court of Human Rights if needed.
The case has gotten the attention of the German community already.
“Christian activists say the case is an assault on religious liberties and the right of a Christian family to homeschool their daughter,” said Speigel Online International’s English-language edition.
“The case has been widely reported in Christian and conservative media in the United States, with some commentators comparing the authorities to Nazis. Activists are being encouraged to pray for the girl and petition German Chancellor Angela Merkel, while one Web site is even calling for a boycott on German goods,” the report continued.
Wolfgang Drautz, consul general for the Federal Republican of Germany, has commented on the issue on a blog, noting the government “has a legitimate interest in countering the rise of parallel societies that are based on religion or motivated by different world views and in integrating minorities into the population as a whole.”
Melissa had fallen behind in math and Latin, and was being tutored at home. When school officials in Germany, where homeschooling was banned during Adolf Hitler’s reign of power, found out, she was expelled. School officials then took her to court, obtaining a court order requiring she be committed to a psychiatric ward because of her “school phobia.”
Drautz said homeschool students’ test results may be as good as for those in school, but “school teaches not only knowledge but also social conduct, encourages dialogue among people of different beliefs and cultures, and helps students to become responsible citizens.”
Just last year the Human Rights Court for the European Union ruled in another similar case that any parental “wish” to have children grow up without the public school’s anti-Christian influences “could not take priority over compulsory school attendance.”
The German government’s defense of its “social” teachings and mandatory public school attendance was clarified during an earlier dispute on which WND reported, when a German family wrote to officials objecting to police officers picking their child up at home and delivering him to a public school.
“The Minister of Education does not share your attitudes toward so-called homeschooling…,” said a government letter in response. “You complain about the forced school escort of primary school children by the responsible local police officers… In order to avoid this in future, the education authority is in conversation with the affected family in order to look for possibilities to bring the religious convictions of the family into line with the unalterable school attendance requirement.”
In Melissa’s case, the local Youth Welfare Office arrived at the family home with about 15 uniformed police officers to take her into custody. They had in hand a court order allowing them to take her into custody, “if necessary by force.”
Practical Homeschool Magazine noted one of the first acts by Hitler when he moved into power was to create the governmental Ministry of Education and give it control of all schools, and school-related issues.
In 1937, the dictator said, “This Reich stands, and it is building itself up for the future, upon its youth. And this new Reich will give its youth to no one, but will itself take youth and give to youth its own education and its own upbringing.”