Christer and Domenic Johansson
Unspecified psychological studies or evaluations have been ordered for a jailed father who, in violation of the procedures of the government-run social services that instructed police officers to abduct his then-7-year-old son because he was being homeschooled, took him home for a visit.
Details are sketchy about the local court hearing, held just before Christmas, in the Gotland, Sweden, case involving Christer Johansson, but a Swedish broadcast station website reveals that Johansson is accused of kidnapping or unlawful detention for the Thanksgiving week incident in which he took his son, now 9, with him following a social services-supervised visit.
The government took custody of Domenic in mid-2009 when police officers stormed a jetliner which the family had boarded en route to a move to India, the home country for Domenic’s mother, Annie Johansson.
Government authorities then awarded custody of Domenic to social services because he was being homeschooled, and he has been allowed visits with his parents only about once every five weeks since.
According to reports from a blog that has been monitoring the family’s case, officials in Gotland decided there should be a “larger study” of the father and he has been ordered to be held in custody while those studies are completed.
According to officials with the Home School Legal Defense Association, which is working with the Alliance Defense Fund on an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of the family, Christer’s brother also has reported Christer was moved to another prison, near Stockholm.
“He is awaiting a forensic psychological test,” the e-mailed report said.
The case developed in mid-2009 when social services and police forcibly took custody of Domenic over government concerns he was being homeschooled. The local courts later denied the parents the legal representation they sought, demanding instead they be represented by a government-approved attorney. The courts ultimately ruled the state must keep custody of Domenic.
Frustrated by the government’s intervention, Christer, following a supervised visit before Thanksgiving, reportedly took his son with him to visit his family for several days. He later called authorities to let them know where they were, and police again swooped in SWAT-team style to take custody of Domenic.This time police arrested Christer and put him in jail.
As part of the campaign to generate public expressions of concern to the local court, the HSLDA reported, “[Christer] was arrested after bringing Domenic home after a supervised meeting. These extremely rare meetings of one hour every five weeks, and under close watch of authorities, have been torture for this family, who have suffered unimaginable psychological stress and pressure.”
Melissa Busekros, after her return to her home. (Photo courtesy Klaus Guenther)
Back in 2007, German social workers forcibly took custody of a 15-year-old girl who was being homeschooled and held her for several months for evaluations in a psychiatric hospital.
Ultimately, when she turned 16 and was subject to different laws in Germany, she simply walked away from the custody in which she’d been held and returned to her family. A court later returned legal custody to her family.
The original court decision had ordered police officers to take Melissa Busekros – 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.
At that time, Wolfgang Drautz, consul general for the Federal Republic of Germany, 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.”
It was a blog called FriendsofDomenic that outlined a plan for concerned parents, homeschoolers and others around the world to let the Swedish authorities know the case is cause for alarm. The plan was for people around the globe to send a polite and direct message to the judge in the case.
Whether that campaign had an impact on the court’s actions remained uncertain.
The Alliance Defense Fund, an international public interest law team, has explained the case:
“Despite the ill-advised decision on the part of Mr. Johansson, the only menace here is a government drunk with its own power,” said Roger Kiska, legal counsel for the ADF.
Annie and Domenic Johansson
“No one in Swedish government seems to be paying attention as this system tramples this poor family into the dirt,” added Michael Donnelly, with the HSLDA. “It’s incredible that after taking Domenic off a plane because he was being homeschooled in June 2009 he is still not home. This is an outrage that all free people should condemn.”
Said Kiska, “This sad circumstance is what happens when an over-powerful government pushes a parent to the point of desperation, so social services should not pretend to be surprised. The parents complied with everything expected of them, and yet the government continued to keep their son under lock and key.
“Americans beware: This is coming to your doorstep if you are not vigilant about your government,” he warned.
Gustaf Hofstedt, president of the local social services board in Gotland, has told WND by telephone from Sweden that there is more to the dispute than homeschooling, but he refused to explain.
“I understand the public debate has been that is a case that is only concerning the fact of homeschooling,” he told WND. “But that is not the case.”
Asked to explain, he said, “I can’t answer that question because of secrecy.”