Melissa Busekros, after her return to her home. (Photo courtesy Klaus Guenther)
A German appeals court has ordered legal custody of Melissa Busekros, the teenager who was taken from her home by a police squad and detained in a psychiatric hospital for being homeschooled, be returned to her family because she no longer is in danger.
Confirmation of the decision by the appellate level court in Bavaria came from the Home School Legal Defense Association, with 80,000 member families probably the world’s premiere homeschool advocacy organization. It has been helping Melissa’s parents, Hubert and Gudrun, with the legal battle for their daughter.
The HSLDA’s translation of the German appeals court ruling said custody of the 16-year-old was returned to the family, because while it was “appropriate” for the judge to do what he did at the time, when he ordered her taken into custody, new information now reveals the lack of danger.
The lower court’s ruling had ordered police officers to take Melissa – then 15 – from her home, if necessary by force, and place her in a mental institution for a variety of evaluations. She was kept in custody from early February until April, when she turned 16 and under German law was subject to different laws.
At that point she simply walked away from the foster home where she had been required to stay and returned home, but she and her family had been living under the possibility that police would intervene again.
The appellate court’s decision said “observations” of Melissa over the last few months “show there is no danger to her well-being and she may now stay with her family,” according to Michael Donnelly, a lawyer working with the HSLDA.
The appeals court referred the case back to the local social welfare office that originally brought the complaint resulting in Melissa being removed from her home.
Donnelly pointed out the ruling does not change the climate of harassment in which the case originally developed, because homeschooling remains illegal in Germany. However, he called the decision a huge victory for the family.
“And a costly one. Their attorneys fees already are in the tens of thousands of dollars,” he said. The HSLDA already has set up a fund – linked under its reports on homeschooling in Germany – for volunteers to help defray those costs, he said.
That statement was issued not long after the teen fled government custody on April 23, her 16th birthday.
Thornton said because of the different German laws that apply to children depending on their age, when Melissa reached the age 16 on April 23, she left a note for the foster family where she had been ordered to stay and returned home on her own, arriving at 3 a.m. to surprised parents and siblings.
“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,” Thornton confirmed earlier.
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 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 the 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.”
Thornton has told WND many other 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 up to $4,000 the government has imposed – 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 HSLDA, has 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.
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