Michael Farris, founder of Home School Legal Defense Association
A growing crackdown on homeschool families – most of whom are Christian – is the “edge of the night that’s coming” for believers, according to an expert in the field.
Michael P. Farris, cofounder of the Home School Legal Defense Association, says his concern is not just for Germany, where the government is being especially intolerant, but other democracies too.
“Germany is the only Western democracy taking this incredibly hard-line approach, but there are growing clouds on a number of national horizons,” Farris told WND in an interview after his recent travels to review the status of homeschooling.
One stop was in Germany, where in recent months homeschoolers have been fined the equivalent of thousands of dollars, had custody of their children taken away, had their homes threatened with seizure and in one case, that of Melissa Busekros, had a team of SWAT officers arrive on a doorstep with orders to seize a homeschool student, “if necessary by force.”
A letter to Christians seeking prayer for three families being fined for homeschooling their children in an atmosphere that protects them from state-required sex classes
Farris, who visited with Melissa’s parents, Hubert and Gudrun Busekros, during his trip, also met with other homeschool families under attack from a government that has held the activity illegal since before the Nazi juggernaut failed to conquer the world.
One of the families is paying a fine each month for refusing to turn children over to a mandatory public school system that advocates alternative sexual lifestyle choices and promotes other beliefs objectionable to Christians.
“Most homeschoolers have concluded when the family courts begin to get involved, their only realistic opportunity is to seek asylum in another country,” Farris said. “You don’t expect to apply for political asylum from a Western democracy but that’s what’s happening and with greater frequency.”
“One of the people we met with said as it pertains to the family, parents and the policy of the government towards children generally, it wasn’t so much that the [Berlin] wall came down after the fall of communism, but that the wall moved to the left,” he said. “The East German government’s philosophy seems to be the style adopted by today’s German government as it approaches children.”
He said even the United Nations, a regular advocate for governmental intervention and influence over most matters, has concluded Germany is stepping over the line because it forbids parents from having significant control over their children’s education.
The internationally recognized laws acknowledging parental authority in the education of children were adopted, after all, in response to earlier education standards enforced in Germany.
The issue of German parents and their decision-making authority for their children’s education was covered in this once-enforced statement: “And this [government] will give its youth to no one, but will itself take youth and give to youth its own education and its own upbringing.”
Adolf Hitler issue the dictate when his government, in one of its first actions when he came to power, took control of all educational institutions and issues.
Farris, a constitutional lawyer who has been named by “Education Week” as one of the most significant “100 Faces of a Century,” said the Busekros family is coping as one would expect.
“They’re doing remarkably well under the circumstances. It’s pretty evident this is a very hard thing. The children, parents, all showed signs they miss their sister and daughter, and they’re very concerned about a long-term resolution.”
He said a conclusion is unlikely to come quickly or easily, and the family’s best hope just may be in the idea of leaving Germany and seeking protection elsewhere. Several families in Germany have gone into hiding in order to avoid being prosecuted by the courts, and there are other families who already have left Germany.
However, Joel Thornton, of the International Human Rights Group, said even those families who already have fled to other countries are moving into hiding in fear of the possibility they could be returned to face German fines or jail time.
German social service workers, Farris told WND, are using the same lines of argument as in other nations, including the United States, except that while social workers in the U.S. are using a “PG-rated” script, in Germany, it’s “R-rated,” he said.
“The philosophy that the government knows best how to raise children is really becoming a worldwide phenomenon,” Farris said. “I think Germany represents the edge of the night that’s coming.”
He said what Germany fails to recognize is that a crackdown on Christian homeschoolers isn’t going to eliminate any problem. In fact, it’s actually attacking pluralism.
“These homeschoolers want to be good German citizens,” he said. “They speak the language, they want their kids to be able to be involved in social events.”
Gudrun Busekros, Melissa’s mother, with some of the supportive letters the family has gotten from around the world
In the Busekros case, he said, the government actually is creating a “parallel society,” which it so abhors, by isolating Melissa.
“When she was homeschooled [at home] Melissa got to see her friends, got to go to church, be out and about,” he said. “Now she’s being taught the same curriculum but she’s entirely isolated.
“It’s the German government that has robbed her of her normal life, including life with a family, which is supposed to be a child’s right under the international law that Germany supposedly adheres to,” he said.
A separate website, FreeMelissaB.com, has been launched by some homeschool supporters in the U.S. to provide addresses of people to contact to protest the situation in Germany.
Farris said the German government has reason to object to “parallel societies” but not from Christian homeschoolers. He said the largely Muslim Turkish population in Germany numbers in the millions, and members have not assimilated.
“What we were told was in many German cities the de facto legal authority is (Muslim religious) sharia law, not German law, and that ‘parallel society’ is what German officials should worry about,” he said.
“For Germany to demand universal government-based socialization of children brings up some very disturbing questions,” he said. “I thought the issue of whether governments could indoctrinate all children was not a disputed principle under international human rights law, but apparently it is.”
Wolfgang Drautz, consul general for the Federal Republic 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.”
Drautz said homeschool students’ test results may be as good as for those in government 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.”
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.”
Farris suggested that a solution, if one is to be found, would be political. “I hope the political leaders of Germany will show some oversight to what their bureaucracy is doing, and recognize they can adopt some reasonable standards for homeschooling, instead of these draconian over-reactions.”
For the United States, Farris has called for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to protect the right of parents to educate their children at home.
Farris, who also has been inaugurated as the first president of Patrick Henry College, advocates for family and parental rights in print, on the air, on Capitol Hill and in various courtrooms where disputes are being resolved. The HSLDA is a nonprofit advocacy group defending and advancing the constitutional rights of parents to direct the education of their children.
With more than 80,000 families who are members, it is the largest homeschool association in the world.
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