Sweden to join Germany in persecuting homeschoolers?

By Bob Unruh

Sweden’s parliament

Members of Sweden’s parliament are being warned to drop plans to change their homeschooling laws or they soon could be on par with Germany, where persecution over homeschooling recently prompted a family to flee to the U.S. for asylum.

The warning comes from the Virginia-based Home School Legal Defense Association, the premier homeschooling-advocacy organization in the world.

The group sent a letter today to each member of Sweden’s lawmaking body noting the recent case of a German family that fled to Tennessee. The letter cited U.S. Immigration Judge Lawrence Burman, who wrote, “No country has a right to deny these basic human rights.”

“He refers to the right of parents to decide the best form of education for their children, which includes the right, even if regulated, to educate their own children themselves,” the HSLDA letter says.

Michael Donnelly, HSLDA’s director of international affairs, told WND the letter was sent because of concern among homeschoolers in Sweden, who number only in the hundreds, about the pending change that could be used to bring even criminal counts against homeschooling families.

“We wish to point out that Sweden’s behavior in repressing home education and in considering laws that would severely restrict, if not entirely eliminate, home education, is similar to behavior for which Germany has been criticized. In fact, the United States of America has granted political asylum to a German family who fled persecution because of their desire to homeschool their children,” the organization’s letter says.

Sweden’s homeschooling plan apparently is recommended in Chapter 24, Paragraph 23 of a proposed school law, officials said.

It “appears likely that the same circumstances that currently exist in Germany would appear in Sweden, forcing Swedish citizens who wish to homeschool to flee their home country. It is our understanding that some Swedish families have already chosen to flee because of the harassment from local school authorities,” the letter says.

Further, such action would violate several established precedents, HSLDA said, including:

  • The European Convention on Human Rights, which includes rights of liberty, security of person, respect for private and family life, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, education, equality and nondiscrimination.
  • The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, in which Article 26 states parents retain the right to choose the kind of education their children receive.
  • And the Treaty of Amsterdam, which “calls for respect for those fundamental rights.”

Donnelly said HSLDA is raising concerns about the Swedish issue not only because of its Swedish members.

Parents in the U.S. do not want such “social” programs moving into the U.S., he said, and if they are allowed to dominate in Europe, they eventually would. Donnelly said the long-running problem in Germany drew the criticism of a United Nations special rapporteur’s documents.

“Even though the special rapporteur is a strong advocate of public, free and compulsory education, it should be noted that education may not be reduced to mere school attendance and that educational processes should be strengthened to ensure that they always and primarily serve the best interest of the child,” the report said.

“Distance-learning methods and homeschooling represent valid options which could be developed in certain circumstances,
bearing in mind that parents have the right to choose the appropriate type of
education for their children, as stipulated in article 13 of the International Covenant
on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,”
the U.N. report said.

The HSLDA letter urges the Swedish lawmakers “to vote against this severe law to modify Chapter 24 Paragraph 23 in the proposed
new Swedish school law. This change would essentially ban homeschooling in Sweden. In a
pluralistic and democratic society such as Sweden, freedom in education must be respected.”

WND previously reported on the case of Swedish parents Christer and Annie Johansson, who were homeschooling as they prepared for a family move last year from Sweden to Annie’s home country of India.

Annie and Dominic Johansson

Swedish police barged into a passenger jet awaiting departure and forcibly took custody of their son, Dominic Johansson, 7.

The boy remains in state custody. The parents were scheduled to have an April 23 meeting about the case but HSLDA officials, who have been monitoring the situation, said the meeting was canceled.

“Sadly, there has been no other change in the status of 7-year-old Dominic Johansson, forcibly separated from his parents, Christer and Annie, more than 10 months ago. Dominic continues to be held in state custody in a foster home. His parents are allowed monitored visits with him only once [for an hour] every five weeks. The situation remains one of intense difficulty for the family,” HSLDA said recently.

Christer Johansson at that time told WND in an interview from Sweden that he and his family are simply on hold – unable to make any plans whatsoever because of the state’s custody of their son.

WND has reported on German homeschoolers who have been fined the equivalent of thousands of dollars, have been threatened with jail and have even watched their children be confined to a psychiatric hospital, diagnosed with “school phobia.”

Wolfgang Drautz, consul general for the Federal Republic of Germany, previously wrote on the issue in a blog, explaining the German government “has a legitimate interest in countering the rise of parallel societies that are based on religion.”

As WND reported, the German government believes schooling is critical to socialization, as evident in its response to another set of parents who objected to police officers picking up their child 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. “… 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.”