Melissa Busekros, after her return to her home. (Photo courtesy Klaus Guenther)
German authorities have told a lawyer for a teenager who was confined in a psychiatric hospital because she was homeschooled she can remain with her family for now, a new report has confirmed.
Joel Thornton, president of the International Human Rights Group told WND that the authorities’ letter to the lawyer said they plan to “de-escalate” the case so that Melissa Busekros could remain in her home.
WND earlier reported that the teen, who was removed from her home by a team of police officers at the beginning of February and then was held in various psychiatric wards and foster home situations, fled government custody on April 23, her 16th birthday.
“At 3 a.m., in Erlangen, Germany, Melissa reached her home to the surprise of her entire family,” Thornton told WND then. “Earlier in the morning Melissa left a note with the foster family where she was being held and began the journey to her family. She left of her own volition.”
He said Melissa left government custody and was in contact with her lawyer, Johannese Hildebrandt, because in Germany different laws are applicable depending on whether a child is 15 or 16.
“The nightmare faced by the Busekros family for the past two months … may be finally over,” Thornton told WND. “In a letter to the family’s attorney, the youth welfare agency responsible for taking her from her home affirmed that they were going to ‘de-escalate’ the situation and allow her to remain with her family as long as they would continue to dialogue with authorities.”
“This is a great victory for the Busekros family,” Thornton said, “but the situation is not completely resolved. We are considering it a significant half-time lead, but not the final win.”
He said authorities had given similar assurances in the past, before Melissa was “taken away in a police van.”
“While Melissa remains home for the moment, the continued threat of state action against the family from an activist judge hangs over their heads,” the IHRG report said. “The International Human Rights Group will be with the Busekros family this coming week and will continue to monitor this situation as well as the plight of other families in Germany.”
A separate website, FreeMelissaB.com, launched by American homeschool leaders, also had been lobbying on behalf of Melissa, as well as providing contact information for German officials key to the case.
Melissa, last February when she still was 15 and subject to different German laws, was taken by police from her parents to a psychiatric ward after a social worker and judge determined she had a “school phobia” and was being homeschooled.
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.
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 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.”
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.”
Thornton has told WND many Christian families who object to the German government’s sexualized education system are facing persecution, too.
Three other families recently released a letter pleading with Christians worldwide for prayer because of their “difficulties” – fines equal to thousands of dollars, frozen bank accounts and even the threat of the sale of the family home – because they homeschool their children.
The letter came from Alexander and Helene Schneider, Johann and Katharina Harder and Heiko and Anna Krautter and was released through the IHRG.
Thornton told WND the situations are becoming dire and parents more fearful about losing custody of their children because of what happened with Melissa.
“We are turning to all believing gospel Christians and Baptists in the CIS, Europe and America,” the three sets of parents wrote. “We are three families of the church in Bischofswerda, and we homeschool our children. For that reason, we had to deal with numerous difficulties with the authorities.”
The families cited fines of about $4,000 for the Harder and Krautter families and about $2,500 for the Schneider family – so far.
“We ask that you pray for us and that you make your voice heard before the secular powers,” said the letter.
“The German government is taking these actions simply because these parents homeschool their children,” Thornton said. “With a very strong Christian faith and a conviction that they should be allowed to raise their children in a Christian educational environment, these families are taking a stand, particularly regarding their right to oversee the sex education of their children as well as protect them from occult influences.”
He also said he was able to meet with members of the Brause family, about whom WND has reported. The German courts already have granted custody of the family’s five children to social workers, although they had not yet moved them out of the family home.
Michael Farris, founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association, said he believes the German treatment of Christian homeschoolers is the “edge of the night that’s coming” for believers.
“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.
“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.”
For the U.S., Farris has called for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to protect the right of parents to educate their children at home.
With more than 80,000 families who are members, HSLDA is the largest homeschool association in the world.
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