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 ↑
Annie and Dominic Johansson
An appeals-level court in Sweden has affirmed the “kidnapping” of a 7-year-old boy who was snatched by police from a jetliner as it prepared to take his family to their new home in India.
The days-old decision from the Administrative Court of Stockholm affirms the state custody of Dominic Johansson, who was taken by uniformed police officers on the orders of social workers even though there was no allegation of any crime on the part of the family, nor was there any warrant, according to the Home School Legal Defense Association.
The group, the premiere homeschool advocacy association in the world today, has been alarmed by the case that developed apparently because school and social services officials in Sweden objected to the homeschool program for the child.
“This court decision is deeply disturbing,” said Michael Donnelly, director of international affairs for HSLDA. “The hostility against homeschooling and for parent’s rights is contrary to everything expected from a Western nation.”
He continued. “This decision echoes the German courts who have ruled homeschooling illegal, and that it is OK to take children from parents who do homeschool. We had hoped that the appeals court would return Dominic to his family. Since they are not, we believe it is critical all freedom-loving people respond to this outrageous decision.”
“HSLDA is gravely concerned about this case as it represents what can happen to other families who might wish to homeschool their children,” Donnelly said. “Furthermore, in response to inquiries from HSLDA, Swedish authorities have cited the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child to explain and defend their actions.
“If the U.S. were to ever ratify this treaty, then state-sponsored kidnapping could occur here. Every homeschooler would be at risk. Such treatment of families and children is inhumane and inconsistent with a reasonable understanding of basic human rights. Therefore, we are asking our members to contact Swedish officials asking them to return Dominic Johansson to his family,” he said.
WND has reported on multiple cases of persecution of homeschooling families in Germany, including when jail terms were ordered for parents of homeschooled children, when a family sought political asylum because of the persecution and when a teen was taken into German state custody and ordered into a psychiatric ward for the crime of being homeschooled.
The case in Sweden developed when the boy, from Gotland, was forcibly taken into custody minutes before he and his parents, Christer and Annie Johansson, were due to take off to start a new life in India, Annie’s home country.
The HSLDA said Dominic was found to be “slightly” behind in some school subjects, but the case has been getting attention even in the Swedish press. There have been reports that senior police officials have criticized the handling of the case.
But the HSLDA said letters it has obtained reveal social workers will not allow the parents to see their son until next year and then will allow visits for one hour every fifth week.
Johannson expressed concern for his wife, too.
“We are in total shock. … We have been and remain willing to cooperate with social services, but they keep telling us we are not capable of caring for our son. This is not true,” he said.
“While we may do things differently than most Swedes, we have not broken any laws and we have not harmed our son. We decided as a family that we wanted to move to India where we could be near my wife’s family. But the government has taken over my family, and now we are living in a nightmare. I fear for the life of my wife under this torture and for the well-being of my son who has only been allowed to see his parents for a few hours since he was taken. The government is alienating my son from me, and I am powerless to do anything,” he said.
HSLDA reported a former Swedish social worker, who talked about the case on condition of anonymity, was critical.
“This case is an absolute outrage. From the taking of the child off a plane by uniformed police officers to the absurd visitation schedule and now the complete cessation of visits. The social workers in this case are letting their pride interfere with the best interests of this little boy,” the worker said.
Christer Johannson expressed his frustration.
“Since our hearing … they have told us that we can no longer see our son,” he said. “They have said that the visits are traumatic for him. Is it any wonder? The poor boy has been kidnapped from his parents and is being forced to live with other people. … He wants to come home but is being held against his will.”
“What you have here is a socialist country trying to create a cookie cutter kid,” said Roger Kiska, an Alliance Defense Fund attorney based in Europe. “This kind of thing happens too often where social workers take a child and then just keep him.”
“I’m just a normal human being, trying my best to do what I feel is important both in my life and in this world. My family is maybe a little different from the norm, but, when did that become a crime,” Christer Johansson wrote.
He said the “social services and [their] lawyers started to lie and mix facts” about the family, so he decided to go public with his story.
The story also was highlighted by writer Don Hank at LaiglesForum.
“Christer told me that the family originally planned to move to India in the spring of 2008. They decided they would homeschool Dominic in order to minimize the disruption of pulling him out of school when they moved and also because Dominic requested it noting that the local public school he had visited was too noisy and stressful,” the column said.
Hank earlier had described the family’s situation:
Christer and Annie Johansson are a Swedish couple from Gotland that attempted last year to home school their son Dominic, a bright and happy 7-year-old, just prior to their leaving the country to take up residence in India. They made all the right moves, informing the school of their plans.
Home schooling was – and still is – legal in Sweden (there is discussion about banning it) and when Christer asked the principal of the local elementary school if he could supply some teaching materials, he agreed to do so.
But in the meantime, some locals decided that these parents should not be allowed to do this. The reasons for this are no more clear than they are legal …
When Christer went back to the principal to get the materials, he was told that he would not supply any materials and that Dominic must go to school.
The Johanssons insisted that the principal keep his promise. The drama quickly escalated and soon the local social services imposed a fine of 250 kronor per day that Dominic was not in school. This did not intimidate the Johanssons, because they knew they were within their rights under Swedish law.
But the Gotland authorities unanimously stood against them and eventually the court got involved and decided that while the school board had violated some of the parents’ rights, they still would have to send Dominic to school.
The Johanssons were on the plane, which was due to leave the gate in one minute when the Swedish police descended on it. Like commandos, they stormed the plane and took Dominic into custody, without stating any reason for doing so. Dominic was so traumatized he later threw up. Annie later fell unconscious to the floor of the police station. The police did nothing to help.
The HSLDA report said the Swedish situation is alarming, because homeschooling at this point is a protected right in the nation.
In a posting at the Swedish newspaper Varlen Idag, Mats Tunehag, president of the Swedish Evangelical Alliance, worried about the injury being inflicted on the family.
“Annie is from a Christian family in India, and they had planned for some time to move there to live, work and to homeschool Dominic. Due to the harassment from Swedish authorities the trip was delayed. But finally in June this year they were on their way, sitting on the plane bound for India. Then the police came rushing into the plane – as if they were to apprehend dangerous terrorists – and snatched Dominic, saying he is to be taken into care. Can anyone imagine?” Tunehag wrote.
The HSLDA wrote to Marika Gardell at the Swedish social services agency and said, “We understand that Swedish law permits parents to educate their children at home and that the local school board is responsible for overseeing the process of notification. However, it appears that in this case, the local school board ignored normal procedure, did not meet with the family to assist them in pursuing home education, and instead fined them and referred the matter to the local court.
“Despite the court and your agency’s knowledge and implied approval of the planned relocation, your agency seized Dominic, and it appears that the primary motivation was opposition to him being homeschooled. Swedish news reports quote local officials as saying that the seizure was necessary in order to ‘protect [Dominic's] right to education.’ News reports also indicate that both Dominic and his parents were seriously harmed by this action and continue to suffer harm from continued separation and limited visits.”
The letter cited the Treaty of Amsterdam, which calls for “respect of fundamental rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights and formalizes the judgments of the European Court of Justice on such matters.”
Michael Farris, HSLDA chairman and president of ParentalRights.org, set up to protect Americans from the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, agreed.
“Any nation that severely restricts the ability of parents to choose alternative forms of education, including home education, in the name of creating national unity, cannot call itself a free nation. Freedom necessarily requires the individual to have the liberty to think differently and believe differently than programs instituted by the current rulers of any nation. Educational freedom is the cornerstone for all freedom of thought and conscience,” he said.